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How might the KE Concordat impact academic staff?

The timing for HE assessments are never great and, together with the REF, the KE Concordat is added pressure for many KE, Research and Innovation departments in 2020.

You may have seen a flurry of activity in your institution, or have heard the KE Concordat being mentioned, and wondered what is going on and how it concerns you. So, over a series of posts, we will explore how developments towards the KE Concordat might impact staff and students. In this first post we'll begin with academic staff. Then, later in the week we'll move on to explore the impact on professional services staff and students.

What is the KE Concordat?

The 'Concordat for the advancement of knowledge exchange in higher education', recognises the great work of HE providers together with external partners, but seeks to provide 'clarity of mission' to HE providers, staff and students so that KE can be done well. It's important to note that it's initially just applicable for HE providers in England.

We've attended the last few KE Concordat online briefings held by Universities UK and it has been encouraging to see the lighter touch approach being advocated for the KE Concordat (especially having been involved in the hefty labour-intensive preparations towards the REFs).

There are eight guiding principles of the KE Concordat:

A diagram illustrating the 8 principles fo the KE Concordat.
The KE Concordat - Principles

So what changes might you see in your university?

Well, this does depend on your employers starting point, but the KE Concordat and its principles advocate development opportunities, process and strategy to support KE (there are 8 principles but 'formal' is mentioned 15 times - there's quite an emphasis on 'formal'-ising the work HE providers do (not necessarily negative - there's an emphasis on better communication and management)).

  • For those academic staff who sit on committees then this may mean new strategies and policies being developed and brought for your consideration and approval. Strategies and policies to support your KE work form principle 2 of the KE Concordat. It may be that your university already has these in place, but they could be considered worthy of a revisit to ensure they work well. You may see efforts to improve policy and operating procedures around IP, access to resources, research quality and ethics, and how external parties engage with the university and perform contract research for instance.

  • all staff may see some shifting of their university or department mission statement, if it doesn't already mention the external benefits or impact of their activities, and their sense of place regionally (including their civic role).

  • You're likely to see further efforts to engage students in Knowledge Exchange activity (beyond placements).

  • Principle 3, Engagement, may prove both political and challenging for universities with suggested enablers including more formal routes to engage and manage relationships with external parties. After spending much time in academia, we've witnessed the politics around 'handing over' contacts to those centrally or placing them on a CRM system (for various reasons - loss of control, fear of fouling the relationship etc). New systems and forms are likely to be implemented as a result of principle 3. Of those 15 incidences of the word, 'formal', 5 are featured in this principle - formal engagement and processes are big!

  • There's a considerable emphasis on developing the capacity/capability of both staff and students in the KE Concordat (Principle 5). As academic staff, this will not only influence you as a staff receiving KE-related development, but may also mean you're asked to further support your students in this respect. You're likely to see new KE training being developed (we've just developed an online module for a research-intensive university exactly for this reason). Your students may undergo (and indeed you may be asked to deliver) skills-based training to support them to engage with external partners.

  • Principle 6, Recognition and rewards, advocates approaches to awarding both staff and students who perform 'high quality KE activities'. You may see consideration for KE-based activity in workload planning activity, promotion opportunities and staff awards. You may also be asked to support student-based KE awards and celebrations or nominate your students.

  • An important sentiment throughout the KE Concordat is 'Continuous Improvement' - the sense that KE continues to evolve and that we can learn and develop best practice in this area. It is expected that this can be evidenced and so it's conceivable that various metrics and benchmarks are developed which could impact your practice (complementing the introduction of KEF metrics a little).

  • And, of course, there's actually the task of engaging in activity that constitutes Knowledge Exchange - engaging with external partners, for mutual benefit, perhaps through applied and co-produced/created research, consultancy, development projects, student-oriented engagement (placements, live projects), etc.

How might you embed the Knowledge Exchange agenda and the principles of the KE Concordat into your academic role?


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