NPC/03/10/C: Higher Education Funding Council for England, Higher Education Innovation Fund, Response to Second Round Funding Proposals

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Also in Consultations 2003...

by Tim Brown

Executive Summary

We welcome the opportunity to comment on the second round of the higher education innovation fund, which seeks to create bridges and transfer knowledge to necessary parts of business from academia. It is our feeling, however, that more transparency could be presented to the individual postgraduate as to how such projects will enable them to engage better with the outside world and hence better equip them for employment. Further to this we would encourage clear links between the two main streams of funding for research intensive and less research intensive departments to ensure that the two are supporting each other, which will assist small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in particular.

Preamble

The National Postgraduate Committee (NPC) is a charity with the aim to advance, in the public interest, postgraduate education in the UK. We organise meetings and conferences, publish best practice guidelines and seek to influence public policy on all aspects of postgraduate education. Our membership consists of affiliated student representative bodies from across the UK; we have one full-time officer, the General Secretary, and fourteen voluntary officers. We work closely with the National Union of Students and the lecturers unions as well as other bodies relevant to postgraduate education.

The objectives of the fund

We welcome the objectives as a means to build bridges between academia and the outside world, and would expect such funds to make significant steps towards achieving this. There is no mention, however, of the objectives aiming to engage students with the whole knowledge transfer process, since they will play a vital role. Likewise this will be beneficial to both them and the economy.

Postgraduates in particular are undertaking research activity where this will give significant added value to a higher degree qualification, where research is carried out. We also see this as a particularly useful starting block to enable graduates to work effectively within small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
Teaching quality will have links with innovation and so it would be useful to consider cases where centres for excellence in teaching and learning (CETLs) that are to be created will compliment the transfer of knowledge. We see the proposals have already identified that funding will be allocated based on the number of students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) engaging with business. We would, however, encourage evidence to be presented that creates transparency for the prospective postgraduate to identify how their course or research programme will better equip them for employment in a chosen field.

The proposals for management, monitoring and evaluation

We are in support of monitoring and evaluation from both industry and academia, although we would encourage feedback from small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to be facilitated by consultants from the office of science and technology.

Arrangements for collaborative projects

We encourage the first stream of funding (research intensive institutions transferring knowledge) to support the second stream (transfer of knowledge through less research intensive and dissemination to the third leg). It is our policy that transfer of knowledge requires the support of innovative and accessible research. This will give the much needed knowledge base to enrich the quality of small to medium sized enterprises. We would therefore request that each region is supported in a way that they are sufficiently funded by both streams of funding, or some regions could be insufficiently resourced with lack of opportunity to collaborate and network with other higher education institutions and business.