Knowledge exchange framework starts this year before funding link

Participation in assessment likely to be a condition of receiving Research England funding from 2020-21

January 16, 2020

The knowledge exchange framework is to go ahead this summer and participation is “likely” to become a condition of receiving Research England funding from 2020-21.

In a report published on 16 January, Research England has set out how the new metrics-based system to assess universities’ performance in areas such as commercialisation and industry collaboration will function.

While the new evaluation will be largely based on metrics already reported by universities, institutions are encouraged to submit “three brief narrative statements” to help contextualise data, the report explains.

This is one more than previously proposed, with an overarching statement on a university’s institutional context requested alongside already-announced submissions covering public engagement and local growth and regeneration activities.

These should be submitted by 15 May, says Research England, ahead of the publication of KEF results in the summer.

While submitting narrative statements will not be compulsory this year, Research England says it plans to publish the metric results for all institutions that receive money from the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

“It is likely that full participation in the KEF (ie, submission of brief narratives) will become a condition of Research England funding from the academic year 2020-21,” the report adds.

This year, Research England will distribute £1.6 billion in quality-related research funding, and next year it will oversee the research excellence framework, which decides how such funds are allocated.

The HEIF, worth £210 million, is seen as the fund that is most likely to be allocated according to the KEF results, with Chris Skidmore, the universities minster, having previously said that the KEF should be “at the heart” of a review of the fund’s methodology.

However, Research England said that “no decision has yet been made about how the KEF will link to funding”, and that HEIF funding “will continue to be allocated using the current method”. The agency previously said that the KEF should influence the distribution of funding “in the longer term” only, and following a review of the first iteration of the assessment.

Other changes made following the consultation include a plan to normalise metrics by institutional income, not full-time equivalent staff headcount, in response to concerns that this might “lead to a focus on individual academic staff when the KEF is designed to be an institutional-level exercise”.

Public and community engagement will now be measured using a score derived from a self-assessment, rather than the amount of time per staff member dedicated to events, performances, and working with museums and galleries.

Alice Frost, Research England’s director of knowledge exchange, said the first iteration of the KEF was “a significant step to deliver insights and fair comparisons on the valuable work which universities do with partners of all kinds”.

“This exercise will bring a justified focus on the progress which had been made and which we expect to continue as the government invests more in research and innovation,” she said. “I am pleased that we have been able to incorporate so many suggestions made by universities during the consultation and pilot phases.”

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