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Title: Explorations of the Policy Drive to Foster a Research Culture within the University of the Highlands and Islands
Author(s): O'Donnell, Patrick. R.G.
Supervisor(s): Morgan-klein, Edwards, R B
Keywords: Research Culture in Dual Sector (FE/HE)
Research culture within FE setting
Issue Date: May-2011
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This study focuses on the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) modelled on a federal, collegiate university based on a number of existing and geographically dispersed Further Education (FE) colleges and research institutions. The inclusion of FE colleges and their geographical dispersal distinguishes it from most mainstream institutions. The UHI was heralded by its advocates as a distinctively radical enterprise designed to meet the fast-moving challenges of the twenty-first century by embracing new technologies and overcoming geographical barriers. After attaining Higher Education (HE) status in 2001, the policy goal of fostering a research culture emerged as a prominent concern for the UHI. This study explores the policy drive to foster such a research culture, focusing on the period from 2003 to 2008. The study was informed by a constructivist grounded theory methodological approach and the data gathering included twenty-six semi-structured interviews to ascertain how this policy drive was received within the UHI partners. The study found that a unified research culture was not perceived to have embedded throughout the partners, with the exception of one or two research institutions where it can be said to have pre-existed. Against this backdrop, the study identified emerging discourses encapsulating how the policy drive was perceived by a wide spectrum of different actors throughout the UHI. Two different types of performativity discourses proved to be central in shaping the policy aspiration, namely a ‘RAE performativity discourse’ and a ‘Further Education (FE) performativity discourse’. Both discourses can be seen to have influenced the trajectory of research expansionist policy within the UHI by setting up a normative space privileging certain identities, subjectivities and associated actions at the expense of others. In highlighting both the structural and socio-cultural barriers to the policy of promoting research, the study aims to contribute to wider debates on institutional policies for building research capacity in a dual sector/hybrid institutional setting. In terms of offering direct benefits to the UHI, by analysing the different sort of assumptions and realities that shape the meaning of a research culture within the UHI, this study may help inform future policy making on research expansion within UHI partners. The study concludes by making a number of practical recommendations which the author believes will help move research from the periphery to a more central stage within the UHI partners.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Education

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