Research Thematics include:



Building World Class Systems of Higher Education: Benchmarking International Experiences (2015-2016)

The last decades have witnessed a transformation in the role, scale and expectations of higher education. Rather than universities attended by a small social elite, post-secondary participation is now seen as essential for the great majority of people and for society. At the same time, there is a growing realisation that the confluence of global and national social, economic and competitive challenges requires a more sophisticated approach to ensuring more effective co-ordination amongst public institutions and national societal goals.

In response, governments around the world have begun looking at the capacity and capability of their various institutions, and the system-as-a-whole, to meet the needs of society and the economy into the future. System architecture and governance are critical policy concerns.

Since 2011, Ireland has been involved in re-examining the structures that guide and govern our higher education system. This strategy has focused on, inter alia, creating a coherent system of mission distinct higher education institutions able to deliver stated national objectives. Arising from the national strategy, the HEA has been implementing a strategic dialogue process with each higher education institution; performance agreements and funding are a key part of this. One of the outcomes was the first Report on the Performance of the Higher Education System to the Minister for Education and Skills, accompanied by institutional profiles.

Seeking to build on international experience, a policy roundtable bringing together representations of jurisdictions which are embracing new models of higher education governance will be held in March 2016. The emphasis will be on sharing experiences and “good practice”, and building a collaborative network of like-minded jurisdictions.

We intend to produce a report, entitled Managing Small Systems, which can form the basis for on-going policy development.



Review of the Oversight of Post-Compulsory Education in Wales (2015-2016)

The review is being conducted by HEPRU on behalf of the Welsh Government. There are four main objectives:

  1. To review, analyse and document the current arrangements for the oversight of post-compulsory education in Wales, including:
    • funding
    • governance
    • quality assurance / standards of education and training
    • management of risk.
  2. To advise on the effectiveness of current arrangements for the oversight of post-compulsory education in Wales judged by reference to other UK nations, relevant international comparators and research evidence.
  3. To make recommendations for the future oversight of post-compulsory education in Wales with particular reference to the role of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and its interface with Estyn.
  4. To indicate whether there may be a need for legislation and new or reformed institutional arrangements to take forward future arrangements proposed in the light of this evaluation.



Governance of higher education: global, national and institutional (2015-2020)

The aim of this project is to explore changing patterns of governance in higher education in the UK and the rest of Europe (with a sideways glance at other world regions). It will examine whether global trends in higher education, including but not confined to the development of more market-oriented models of the university, require existing forms of governance, developed when higher education systems were largely state-directed and universities and colleges were conceived of as essentially ‘public’ institutions, to be radically revised. It will further examine how these global trends are modified across Europe in, and through, local contexts (at both national and institutional levels). The intention is that, by exploring this relationship between global trends and local contexts, the project will contribute to a better understanding of higher education governance in conceptual, and comparative, terms and also help to develop a practical framework within which policy makers and institutional leaders and managers can develop and reform of existing structures of governance.

It seeks to examine the what extent to which globalization and global trends in higher education, including the development of more market-oriented models, require existing forms of governance to be radically revised. In particular, it looks at the extent to which the relationship between the global, national and institution is changing in response to the new environment, and then to which extent these global trends modified by national/local contexts – both national environments and institutional settings – across Europe.

Research is being conducted by Ellen Hazelkorn (global governance), Mike Shattock (national systems), and Peter Scott (institutional governance), assisted by Andrew Gibson (DIT) and Aniko Horvath (IoE).

The project is being funded by and conducted under the auspices of the Centre for Global Higher Education (ESRC/HEFCE CGHE), UCL Institute of Education. Ellen Hazelkorn is a founding member of CGHE, and a member of the Advisory Board and Management Committee.



The Civic University: The leadership and management challenges (2013-)

This project studies the way in which individual universities have developed processes and structures to strengthen their engagement with civil society. It involves case studies of eight universities in Europe which either describe themselves as civic universities or are in the process of enhancing their civic engagement across a broad front which embraces teaching and research. The focus of the project is on individual institutions rather than territorial development and the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of civic engagement, particularly the, vision and mission, leadership, management and governance, organization, financial and human resource policies and practices needed to mobilize the academic community to meet the needs of the wider society locally, nationally and globally. The case studies will set each university in its historical, geographical and policy context, examine the drivers and barriers within the university and the social-political environment to civic engagement, and identify how these challenges have been or are being overcome. The project is led by Prof John Goddard, Newcastle University, UK and Prof Ellen Hazelkorn, DIT – with the sponsorship of Newcastle University.

The Civic University: The Policy and Leadership Challenges, co authored by John Goddard, Ellen Hazelkorn, Louise Kempton, and Paul Vallance, will be published in 2016 by Edward Elgar.



GUNi University Network for Innovation (2014-2017)

The 6th Higher Education in the World (HEIW6) will develop a comprehensive analysis of the globally and locally engaged university. The objectives are: (1) to analyse the dual responsibilities of universities at local and global scale, (2) to identify best practices and to provide recommendations to both the academic community, policy makers and public officials on how higher education institutions (HEI) can improve and make compatible cultural, social and economic impacts at local and global levels, and (3) to explore the potential conflict, or intrinsic challenges, in addressing both societal demands based on the race for global competitiveness and to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable society (at local and global level).

The Editorial Team is composed of: Ellen Hazelkorn, John Goddard, Rajesh Tandon and Budd Hall.



Governance and Adaptation to Innovation Modes of Higher Education Provision (GAIHE) (2013-2016)

The priority of this project is to support the European Commission's modernization agenda of higher education, particularly through governance reforms. The aims and objectives of this study are in line with the Council conclusions on modernizing universities for Europe’s competitiveness in a global knowledge economy, which encourages higher education institutions to improve their management practices, develop their innovative capacity and strengthen their capacity to modernize their curricula. The project will generate evidence and recommendations to increase the strategic capacities of higher education institutions to manage resources efficiently. In addition, workshops and targeted courses promote the diffusion of best practices in governing HEIs. The study will develop evidence-based policy analysis to understand the adaptation to and role of the university management the diffusion of innovative teaching and learning practices. This study aims to:

  1. Identify the innovative modes of provision and the best practices which contributed to their diffusion while respecting the quality of higher education
  2. Understand how the management of higher education is adapting to these new modes of provision.

Funded by the European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme. Led by University of Maastricht, and also involving the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Lyon, University of Latvia, University of Sibiu, Comenius University in Bratislava, University of Ss Cyrill and Methodius of Skopje, University of Maribor, and the University of Salamanca. HEPRU conducted a literature review and carried out and analyzed the results of a survey of different HEIs across Europe. A copy of the resulting publication written by Andrew Gibson, Barry Colfer, and Ellen Hazelkorn, Report on the Survey of Governance and Adaptation to Innovative Modes of Higher Education Provision (GAIHE) is available from Arrow.

The GAIHE project website has further details about the project, its consortium members, and other publications.



The Impact and Influence of League Tables and Ranking Systems on Higher Education Decision-making and Government Policy-making (2006-)

Over the past decade, higher education rankings have become increasingly prevalent in countries around the world. While they have been part of the US HE landscape for decades, the recent frenzy provoked by publication of the Shanghai Jiao tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and Times QS World University Rankings gives an indication of the seriousness which HEIs, policymakers and the media attach to them. Their increasing credibility derives from their simplicity, and the perception that they meet the need for “consumer-type” information of higher education performance and quality. Despite the fact that there are almost 18,000 HEIs worldwide, there is an obsession with the performance of the top 100. However, how much do we know and understand about the influence and impact of rankings on institutional leaders, managers, faculty and students?

Research was originally conducted under the auspices of the OECD and IAU (International Association of Universities), and has been on-going since 2006. Since then two books and many articles, conference presentations, commentaries and interviews have been conducted. The research has become the definitive baseline work on the impact and influence of rankings on higher education institutions and policymaking.

To learn more about how rankings are impacting on institutional decision-making, academic behaviour and attitudes, an international survey of HE leaders was conducted in 2006, followed by interviews conducted with HE leaders, academic staff and students in Germany, Australia and Japan during 2008.

Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education: The Battle for World-Class Excellence, 2nd edition, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015.



Measuring the societal impacts of universities' research into arts and the humanities (HERAVALUE) (2011-)

The HERAVALUE project aims to explore how arts and humanities research is defined, appreciated and accounted for by multiple stakeholders: researchers, policymakers and civil society. It questions assumptions held by the different constituencies, and compares and contrasts their perceptions and considerations of creative values, creativity and innovation, and impact and benefit. Furthermore, it aims to identify appropriate practices and methodologies to assess and demonstrate quality and value beyond the academy. The key objective is to better understand what really matters rather than what is easily measured.

The research was conducted by Ellen Hazelkorn, HEPRU, DIT (Ireland) Paul Benneworth, University of Twente (Netherlands) and Magnus Gulbrandsen, NIFU-STEP (Norway).

There are five main objectives:

  1. To develop a conceptual framework explaining how societal stakeholders, concerned with innovation, actively construct the value placed upon A&HR.
  2. To systematically uncover the implicit valuations made by key decision-makers underpinning the widespread failure to agree a common approach to valuing A&HR;
  3. To map key stakeholder groups’ interactions within wider innovation and political systems which frame how A&HR’s value is socially constructed;
  4. To reflect upon alternative methodologies for valuing A&HR, transcending directly quantifiable outputs and economic impacts, reflecting these implicit valuations;
  5. To disseminate HERAVALUE’s findings to contribute to designing better policies, instruments and indicators for A&HR valorization, better contributing to debates concerning A&HR’s wider value in the context of a global economic downturn.

A copy of the report by Ellen Hazelkorn, Martin Ryan, Andrew Gibson, and Elaine Ward, Recognizing the Value of the Arts and Humanities in a Time of Austerity, is available here.

The Impact and Future of Arts and Humanities Research, co-authored Paul Benneworth, Magnus Gulbrandsen, and Ellen Hazelkorn will be published in 2016 by Palgrave.



Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes (RISP) (2011-2014)

RISP aims to carry out the first pan-European study on the impact and influence of rankings and similar transparency tools on the development strategies of European universities. RISP will also develop recommendations on how rankings and transparency tools can be used to promote institutional development while identifying ‘potential pitfalls’ that universities should avoid. The project is led by the European University Association (EUA), and is carried out in partnership with the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the French Rectors’ Conference (CPU) and the Academic Information Centre (AIC) in Latvia.

The report from this project, written by Ellen Hazelkorn, Tia Loukkola, and Thérèse Zhang, was launched on the 6th of November at the European Universities Association, Brussels. Press release of the event is available here.



Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Higher Education (2011-)

Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Higher Education aims to add to our knowledge and understanding of institutional change, and to produce in-depth evidence on how the global economic crisis and its aftermath are impacting on and driving change in higher education around the world. The project involves comprehensive case studies of almost 30 higher education institutions around the key themes of sustainability, efficiency, productivity, quality and participation. These themes relate to HEI strategy, finance, quality and work practices. This is the first comprehensive international study and is being undertaken in collaboration with the International Association of Universities (IAU).



Development of Higher Education Ranking System in the UAE (2015)

HEPRU was part of a team asked to undertake a review of the current rankings system in UAE during 2015 on behalf of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. The objective was to review the introduction of a rankings system in the UAE, in the light of the present higher education environment in the country, to propose modifications to the current system, and to make recommendations.



Learning Gain Research (2014)

RAND Europe (an independent, not-for-profit research institute), was awarded a contract by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in July 2014 to produce a study on learning gain in higher education. This is part of a broader, joint Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)/BIS/Higher Education Academy (HEA) project to explore approaches to the measurement of learning gain. This study aims to critically evaluate a range of assessment methods and tools (including both discipline-based and generic skills testing) for learning gain. The first phase of our project consists of a review of the literature to examine key documents on learning gain, value added measurement and student engagement across the UK and internationally. The review also looks into tools and methods in the secondary education sector, which may be applicable to higher education. The second phase of the project consists of interviews with professional bodies concerning higher education in England.



Building Capacity for Structural Reform in Higher Education of Western Balkan Countries (2011-2013)

Building Capacity for Structural Reform in Higher Education of WBC aims to strengthen the capacity for the structural reform of higher education in Western Balkan countries in order to facilitate the assimilation of the region into the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and to ensure full engagement with the Bologna Process. In particular, the project seeks to enhance regional cooperation in respect of the development of the higher education sector through the creation of a joint regional roadmap for its reform, which will be benchmarked against best European practice. It is funded by the EU Tempus Programme and led by the University of Novi Sad, Serbia.