Lord Stern’s Review of the Research Excellence Framework

Building on Success and Learning from ExperiencePresident of the British Academy Lord Nicholas Stern was commissioned by the government to carry out the review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). The independent report “Building on Success and Learning from Experience” was published last week (28th July).

You can read the full report here, but the recommendations are, in summary:

Outputs – Recommendations 1-4

Recommendation 1: All research active staff should be returned in the REF.

Recommendation 2: Outputs should be submitted at Unit of Assessment level with a set average number per FTE but with flexibility for some faculty members to submit more and others less than the average.

Recommendation 3: Outputs should not be portable.

Recommendation 4: Panels should continue to assess on the basis of peer review. However, metrics should be provided to support panel members in their assessment, and panels should be transparent about their use.

Impact – Recommendations 5-7

Recommendation 5: Institutions should be given more flexibility to showcase their interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting ‘institutional’ level impact case studies, part of a new institutional level assessment.

Recommendation 6: Impact should be based on research of demonstrable quality. However, case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs.

Recommendation 7: Guidance on the REF should make it clear that impact case studies should not be narrowly interpreted, need not solely focus on socioeconomic impacts but should also include impact on government policy, on public engagement and understanding, on cultural life, on academic impacts outside the field, and impacts on teaching.

Environment – Recommendations 8-9

Recommendation 8: A new, institutional level Environment assessment should include an account of the institution’s future research environment strategy, a statement of how it supports high quality research and research-related activities, including its support for interdisciplinary and cross-institutional initiatives and impact. It should form part of the institutional assessment and should be assessed by a specialist, cross-disciplinary panel.

Recommendation 9: That individual Unit of Assessment environment statements are condensed, made complementary to the institutional level environment statement and include those key metrics on research intensity specific to the Unit of Assessment.

Wider Context – Recommendations 10-12

Recommendation 10: Where possible, REF data and metrics should be open, standardised and combinable with other research funders’ data collection processes in order to streamline data collection requirements and reduce the cost of compiling and submitting information.

Recommendation 11: That Government, and UKRI, could make more strategic and imaginative use of REF, to better understand the health of the UK research base, our research resources and areas of high potential for future development, and to build the case for strong investment in research in the UK.

Recommendation 12: Government should ensure that there is no increased administrative burden to Higher Education Institutions from interactions between the TEF and REF, and that they together strengthen the vital relationship between teaching and research in HEIs.

It was also published a summary of responses to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) review call for evidence and follow-up interviews. You can find the document here.

The advantages of offering degree apprenticeships

240216_AMRC_101The University of Sheffield has been an early entrant to this new form of higher learning.

Its Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre – AMRC with Boeing (which specialises in the research and development of better manufacturing processes and more efficient factory optimisation) has excellent relationships with businesses – both large multinationals (typified by Boeing) and also local SMEs. It has been delivering research and taught masters degrees since its inception almost two decades ago. For the past three years, the AMRC as part of the University of Sheffield has provided advanced and higher apprentice training, with an annual intake of 205 apprentices. Having identified a gap in manufacturing education at degree level, it has been able to take advantage of the government initiatives and funding around degree apprenticeships to develop its offer.

With a Further Education college partner, locally, the AMRC Training Centre already offered a Foundation degree and higher apprenticeship, but is now recruiting to the first year of its new Bachelors in Manufacturing programmes (BMan), designed to provide degree level apprenticeships in Manufacturing.  The BMan programme will run via day release over three years.  By teaching over 36 weeks a year, on one (long) day a week, and using a flipped classroom/blended learning approach, the curriculum has been designed to  deliver graduates of the standard that employers are expecting. Students will be able to study for a foundation degree in two years, a bachelor’s degree in three years or to master’s level over four years.

The employers say that the key benefits are that as well as being better engaged and loyal,

  • the students understand industry;
  • they know how to make things;
  • they have manufacturing skills;
  • they have an established work ethic.

In addition, they will have access to experts from the university and AMRC to support student projects and the apprentice levy and government support improves the financial viability, even for small companies.

From the students’ perspective, they get paid while they study, ‘earn while they learn’ and apply their academic learning in their own workplace through project work in their companies. The blended learning approach means that they will be able to do much of the learning in their own time, meaning that the time they spend in at university will focus on problem classes, laboratories and tutorials.

The university sees it as a flagship activity with a number of key advantages:

  • It enables the university to cover the full post-16 to PhD spectrum of education in manufacturing, with industry engagement at every stage;
  • It enables the university to apply its standards and educational experience to widen the number and diversity of people studying engineering.
  • It allows the university to better engage with the region, its local manufacturing base and the rest of the world to provide an additional pipeline of well-qualified, graduate engineers.

 

With thanks to Professor Stephen Beck, Head of Multidisciplinary Engineering Education, University of Sheffield

EPC Contextual Learning Toolkits

Contextual Learning ToolkitsThe EPC Contextual Learning Tools is a result of the research conducted to address the recommendations of the Perkins Review of Engineering Skills and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Universe of Engineering Report about engineering student’s placements in companies, by the Engineering Education, Employability and Skills (EEES) sub committee – Working Group 1: Placements and Accreditation (led by Professor Mike Sutcliffe).

Contextual Learning Toolkits

The Perkins recommendation was based on the recognition that student placements in companies increase graduate employability, improve students’ degree performance, and act as excellent recruitment tools for employers. In particular:

  • All universities should supervise and give academic credit for placement activity so that students can see it contributes towards their degree achievement.
  • All of the professional engineering institutions should work with universities and industry to offer accreditation for degrees of this type. (With many students studying four year MEng degrees, there is little appetite to extend this to five with a placement year. The Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Institution of Chemical Engineers already accredit ‘Integrated MEng’ degrees which include a year in industry).

The Universe of Engineering Report’s recommendation was that “the professional engineering institutions should work with the higher education (and further education) sectors to ensure that industrially experienced engineers are used to provide contextualised learning.  In HE this improvement should be driven through the course accreditation process”.

More recently, the Wakeham Review of STEM Degree Provision and Graduate Employability had highlighted that employers and HE providers should work more closely together in order to improve graduate employment outcomes. In particular, they should consider addressing the following areas:

  • Improving the opportunities for students to take up work experience and to maintain its quality
  • Embedding the development of soft skills into degree courses and improving work readiness
  • Better matching degree courses to employer demand for skills
  • Improving STEM careers advice and awareness of job opportunities for graduates and students, as well as even earlier in the education pipeline

Two toolkits were developed to address specific issues of students, universities and employers. The final result is part of the close work that the EPC has being doing with the NCUB on its “engineering workwith” hub of information for employers, and follows the outcomes of a survey conducted by the EPC during September/October 2015 on Contextual Learning in UK HE Engineering.

 

Professor Helen Atkinson among ‘Top 50 Women in Engineering’

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An inaugural list of the top 50 Women in Engineering, featuring former EPC President and University of Leicester Head of Engineering Professor Helen Atkinson, was published in the Daily Telegraph for the first time on 23 June 2016 to coincide with the National Women in Engineering Day.

The list, compiled by the Telegraph in collaboration with the Women’s Engineering Society features the UK’s top influential female engineers chosen from almost 900 nominations.

You can read the University of Leicester press release here.

Professor Atkinson is Head of the Department of Engineering at the University of Leicester and a  trustee of the Royal Academy of Engineering. She chairs the  Committee on Education and Skills for the Royal Academy of Engineering. She was elected the first woman President of the Engineering Professors’ Council in its fifty year history, the body which represents engineering in higher education throughout the UK.

“Children as Engineers – Paired Peer Mentors in Primary Schools”

EPC’s Engaging in Enreport covergineering Public Engagement Grant Award 2014

At its 2014 Congress, the Engineering Professors’ Council launched a public engagement funding call: Engaging in Engineering.  One of the two winning projects was “Children as Engineers – Paired Peer Mentors in Primary Schools” from Dr Catherine Hobbs and Laura Fogg-Rogers of the University of the West of England.

Laura’s paper on the project, entitled “Children as Engineers – Paired Peer Mentors in Primary Schools” has has been accepted into the European Journal of Engineering Education (The Official Journal of the European Society for Engineering Education).

You can read the finished paper here.

Read more about the project.

Short poll: Support for early career academic and research staff in engineering

Picture1The Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) is the representative body for engineering in higher education. But we’re not just for professors… Our primary purpose is to provide a forum at which all engineers working in UK higher education can exchange ideas about engineering education, research and other matters of common interest and to come together to provide an influential voice and authoritative conduit through which engineering departments’ interests can be represented to key audiences such as funders, influencers, employers, professional bodies and Government. We are a unique network representing all branches of engineering studies and currently number 81 institutional members encompassing c.6,500 academic staff (permanent FTE).

Because we’re not just for professors, we would like your input on an initiative we are thinking of developing – a professional support network for early career staff. We’d therefore be very grateful for your answers to the following survey:

Support for early career academic and research staff in engineering

Thank you for your participation.

Challenges of introducing and designing new engineering programmes…

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Grant Campbell and Daniel Belton at the University of Huddersfield have just published this useful paper about introducing a new programme in a high cost subject at a time of constrained resources but high demand…The full paper may be downloaded here.

Abstract: The rise in popularity of chemical engineering among students entering university has prompted expansion of the UK provision, through increased intake into current degree programmes and with the rise of new providers. The former entails logistical challenges of processing larger numbers through existing infrastructures whilst maintaining the student experience. The latter entails challenges of designing and introducing programmes that build harmoniously on existing non-chemical engineering provision, within the constraints of university validation procedures and physical resources, and in the face of uncertainty around student and staff recruitment, while aspiring to implement best practice in chemical engineering content and pedagogy. Following a review of the UK chemical engineering landscape and a critique of literature guidance on the appropriate content of chemical engineering curricula, this paper illustrates the issues of new programme development through the approaches and experiences of a new provider, the University of Huddersfield, which introduced new chemical engineering programmes from academic year 2013/14. The paper addresses specifying the content of chemical engineering programmes to align with accreditation requirements and literature advice while maintaining distinctiveness. The constraints imposed by the need to specify and validate courses internally and to minimise substantive programme changes subsequently, whilst responding to the opportunities that arise as staff are recruited and to external developments and unplanned incidents, are highlighted and illustrated, in order to draw lessons that might help to guide other new entrants.

A plethora of publications…

Wakeham reportThe much-anticipated Wakeham and Shadbolt Reviews were published this week (16th May) alongside the Higher Education White Paper giving the sector much to chew over.

Sir William Wakeham, this year’s EPC President’s Prize recipient and newest EPC Patron, had provided a “sneak preview” of the report at our AGM in April.  You can read the full report here, but the recommendations were, in summary:

 

 

Recommendation 1 – Biological Sciences

Further targeted work is needed to explore in more detail the reasons for the relatively poor employment outcomes of Biological Sciences graduates and to set out solutions for improving these outcomes.

Recommendation 2 – Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences

Further work is needed to unpick and explore the nature of, and reasons for the relatively poor employment outcomes of graduates from Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences (EMES) degree programmes. Where clear problems are identified for particular disciplines within the EMES group, solutions should be proposed for improving outcomes.

Recommendation 3 – Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Food Sciences

Further targeted work is needed to explore the current employment outcomes for graduates in these disciplines across the whole of the set of businesses in the agricultural food chain. The existing data is not sufficiently detailed to allow certainty about the situation now and the pace of change in the industry is likely to place new pressures on both HE and the industry to match demand with the supply of appropriately skilled graduates. The study therefore needs to include consideration of the future as well as the past.

Recommendation 4 – Additional STEM disciplines of concern

Further targeted work is needed to explore the graduate employment outcomes of Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Engineering Design graduates.

Within all three disciplines the respective industry bodies, HE providers and professional bodies for those disciplines should work together to clarify the nature of their graduate employment outcomes and decide whether specific measures are required to address the concerns we have identified.

Recommendation 5 – Increased engagement between industry and HE providers

Employers and HE providers should work more closely together in order to improve graduate employment outcomes. In particular, they should consider addressing the following areas:

  • Improving the opportunities for students to take up work experience and to maintain its quality
  • Embedding the development of soft skills into degree courses and improving work readiness
  • Better matching degree courses to employer demand for skills
  • Improving STEM careers advice and awareness of job opportunities for graduates and students, as well as even earlier in the education pipeline

Recommendation 6 – Improvements to data on graduate employment outcomes

There are opportunities to enhance the richness, quality and consistency of data available on STEM graduate employment outcomes. Ideally it should be possible for analysis of student lows from particular HE disciplines into specific sectors of employment to better recognise the type of degree and reflect upon relevant features of their degree programme. Where appropriate this should align with HESA’s existing work to review graduate destinations and outcomes data. It should also extend beyond student data collections with the ambition that information collected from employers and their representative bodies can be available for scrutiny in an accessible and comparable form.

Recommendation 7 – Accreditation

Good practice from existing, well-established systems of degree course accreditation should be highlighted and disseminated where it may be of interest to those STEM disciplines without an accreditation framework or where an accreditation framework is emerging. Potentially the Science Council should explore a future role in developing and overseeing a unified accreditation framework for the science disciplines that draws upon the experience of both the Engineering Council and those science disciplines where there are already well-established accreditation systems.

 

The EPC has, of course, been working for some time with a range of sector bodies to address recommendation 5 in particular.  Most recently, we have been working closely with the National Centre for Universities and Business on its “engineering workwith” hub of information for employers which it plans to launch in June.  Members have been very generous with their time and experience to contribute to this important project.  Other projects include our Engineering Education and Employability committee’s work on good practice in provision of contextual learning (which relates to Recommendation 7) and a toolkit for development of degree apprenticeships, both of which we hope to launch soon.  If you want to know more, do please get in touch.

As we mentioned, the Shadbolt Review of Computer Sciences Degree Accreditation and Graduate Employability has also been published and you can read more about it in a post by the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing.

We’ll also be in touch with members shortly regarding the arrangements for responding to the two consultations arising from the HE White Paper: Success as a Knowledge Economy: a) implementation of the Teaching Excellence Framework and b)  accelerated degree programmes and course switching.

EPC President speaking on BBC Look North

Acknowledgement: BBC Look North

Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) President, Professor Stephanie Haywood of the University of Hull, appeared on BBC’s Look North last week in a segment about Hull’s upcoming Amy Johnson Festival.

This year’s EPC Congress will be held in Hull to coincide with the Amy Johnson festival (itself linked to the city’s Freedom Festival), which will feature an exhibition (“Engineered: Renaissance mechanics to contemporary art”) of 12 replicas of Leonardo Da Vinci’s flight and wind machines.  Professor Haywood underlined the Festival’s importance in inspiring young people to study engineering and that while maths and physics were important, engineering needed a broad range of skills including design and creativity.  This year’s Congress theme “The Art of Engineering” will reflect this with speakers from both industry and HE discussing new curriculum developments amongst a host of other issues key to the future of engineering in UK HE.

Both members and non members can download the draft programme and book their places here.

 

University College London partners with Primary Engineer to bring Special Leaders Award to London Schools

 

16-04-05The Faculty of Engineering Sciences at University College London (UCL) is one of the EPC member organisations that has been working with Primary Engineer to run the Special Leaders Award programme.  It’s the first time it’s been run in London, bringing the world of research and work into the Capital’s schools through STEM Ambassadors and chartered engineers. It forms part of a wider programme to change attitudes to STEM careers and degrees through inspiring children at an early age, transforming teaching of these subjects, and building relationships between schools, universities and industry. By engaging with children at an early age, the programme aims to introduce STEM subjects and engineering as attractive options to pursue, change misperceptions around engineering, while encouraging a more diverse group of future engineers, helping break down the gender, racial and socio-economic stereotypes that persist.

The London Special Leaders Award asks 5-19 year olds to respond to the question: “If you were an Engineer in London, what would you do?” Through the exploration of engineering achievements and cutting-edge research and interviews with engineers in academia and industry from a broad range of fields, pupils are enabled to let their imaginations run free to design inventions that could change London, or, perhaps transform the entire world. Pupils will find a real-world challenge and propose their solution, writing a “pitch” letter to support their entry together with supporting materials including technical drawings.

The London Special Leaders Award programme has already attracted more than 1500 pupils aged 5-19 years olds from London schools. This is a wonderful opportunity for pupils to engage with real engineers at different stages of their studies, research or profession in academia and industry. The passion and active engagement of UCL Engineering STEM Ambassadors, undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as academic and research staff, during assemblies, workshops and interview sessions brings the programme to life, they are the best ambassadors for engineering. In particular, student’s act as role models to young people, inspiring them about STEM careers while highlighting the creative and humanitarian nature of engineering and its significance to society. Both UCL Engineering and Primary Engineer ensure that there is good gender and racial representation of students and staff engaging with pupils on the programme, sending a clear, consistent and strong message about the importance of a diverse talent pool that promotes creativity, ingenuity and innovative ideas. For students, supporting the programme helps them develop invaluable transferable skills and qualities, identifying effective ways of communicating their subject-specific knowledge in an accessible, straightforward and engaging manner to audiences of different ages and levels of prior understanding.

If you want to find out more about the London Special Leaders Award programme visit the following website: http://www.engineering.ucl.ac.uk/schools-engagement/event/london-special-leaders-award-2016/

If you want to find out more about Primary Engineer and its range of programmes visit the following website: http://www.primaryengineer.com

To find out about how you or your students can get involved email: info@primaryengineer.com

Dr. Elpida Makrygianni, UCL Engineering Education and Engagement