New Network to link up ‘Islands of Excellence’ in Research

The initiative, led by members of the higher education representative body GuildHE, has won backing from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The move aims to help institutions that are not research-intensive but are strong in certain disciplines create a virtual community from their ‘islands of research excellence’, opening up opportunities to collaborate and build research capacity.

It follows calls from some higher education mission groups for future research funding to be restricted only to the top research-led universities in the sector.

GuildHE argues that good research should be funded wherever it is found, and that research funding should not be allocated according to type of institution.

The new network will help participating institutions build on their existing strengths and open up new opportunities for research staff and students to work on joint and interdisciplinary projects.
Other anticipated benefits include:

– Sharing of research facilities
– Joint bids for research grants
– Collaboration on postgraduate student and supervisor training
– Sharing of expertise and good practice in preparation for the REF
– An online portal for research network community
The network is expected to be self-funding in three years and may be extended to include institutions beyond the membership of GuildHE.

Those institutions currently involved have research strengths in many areas of national need and importance, including the creative arts, teacher education, sport, land based disciplines, and the humanities.

Work will initially focus on creating new opportunities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research projects; developing practice based research and exploring the connection between research and knowledge transfer and consultancy; translation of theoretical research into useable applications, examining the position of part-time research students; and engaging in small scale regional commercial research.

Alice Hynes, Chief Executive of GuildHE, said: “This is an important opportunity for institutions that are not big research-led universities to build on their areas of research excellence through mutual academic and organisational support.

“Working together will enable members of the network to punch above their weight in the research arena and improve their chances of winning their fair share of research funding.

“We expect the shared expertise and development opportunities created by the network will be particularly valuable in meeting the expectations of the Research Excellence Framework and rising to the challenge of demonstrating the impact of research.”