It’s not often that you get a relatively short monthly email from me, but this is one of those occasions. I’m sure nobody will mind, but the reason is that there are so many things in the offing that it’s difficult to say much about the general context we are working in at the moment except that everything depends on how things turn out.
Next time I write we will know the result of the Welsh Assembly elections and, I presume, the composition of the next government. Subsequent to that (probably in early June) the main recommendations of the Diamond Review of student support and university funding in Wales will be published, on which much depends. We will also have to wait until June, of course, for the outcome of the referendum on British membership of the European Union, an exercise in democracy that will have more far-reaching effects than almost any other I can recall, with the possible exception of the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. By that point it is also very likely that we will have a Westminster government white paper on higher education in England, which will set out plans for legislation on matters concerning the organisation of research in the UK, the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework for England, quality assurance and other related issues. This will be the biggest shake-up in the higher education infrastructure since the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act, and will undoubtedly affect us here in Wales although many of the provisions will apply to England only. The Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, has also commissioned a review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), which will report towards the end of the summer or in the autumn. The importance of the outcome hardly needs any emphasis from me. Finally, Universities UK has launched an enquiry, led by Sir David Bell (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading) into the sector agencies, which include organisations such as the Higher Education Academy, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, Jisc, the Quality Assurance Agency and four other similar agencies that work for and with the sector. I won’t go into all the detail, but essentially the Higher Education Funding Council for England is withdrawing funding for these organisations so universities will have to carry the costs. Sir David Bell’s group is considering the implications of this, which could have some important effects for universities and of course the agencies themselves.
As ever, I shall keep you updated on these external factors as best I can, and try to explain the risks and opportunities for Cardiff University in what might be a very different higher education landscape.
We have little control over any of the above, but there is one matter that I should like to draw to the attention of researchers whose work may be submitted to the next Research Excellence Framework. There is now an edict that all articles published after 1 April 2016 should be open access compliant. Any output that is to be submitted to the next REF must follow this externally imposed requirement within the designated time-scale. I urge all researchers to look at the relevant instructions to ensure that their work is eligible for submission to REF 2020. This is an important and urgent matter, so please do take the time to check through what needs to be done.
Finally (I said I would be brief this month!) I should like to congratulate Professor Karen Holford and Dr Kelly BéruBé, who have been recognised at the inaugural Chwarae Teg Womenspire Awards for their commitment to equal opportunities and inspiring the next generation of women in Wales. Karen won the ‘Women in Education’ award, while Kelly was presented with the ‘Pioneer in STEM’ award for her work in promoting STEM as a career choice for women. Both Karen and Kelly are excellent role models and I’m delighted at their success.
With best wishes