RAE2001 logo

Submissions

 
 

RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

The Open University's research in Social Policy and Social Work continues to flourish. We have achieved the objectives set in 1996, increasing the number of research active staff and the level of external research funding. We have enhanced established research areas while managing new focal points for research, creating a more diverse intellectual environment. Four key features underpin this:

Interdisciplinarity. Current work crosses boundaries between cultural theory, geography, economics, history, politics, psychology, sociology and anthropology. It develops a close dialogue between policy and practice: engaging care managers, gerontologists, nurses, social workers and lawyers. This interdisciplinary approach creates both a sense of intellectual dynamism and a powerful link between academic and practitioner orientations.

Collaboration. The OU has a uniquely strong collaborative basis for research in that teams form a basic unit of its organisation. External collaboration is also highly valued: with other researchers throughout the UK and across the world; with policy makers at all levels, and with service users and deliverers at all levels from small-scale community groups to NGOs operating globally.

Innovation. We have established a distinctive international reputation for producing work that is theoretically and methodologically innovative. We play a leading role in examining and theorising the conditions, contexts and consequences of social policy and social care in rapidly changing and complexly structured societies.

Dissemination. The OU occupies a unique national and international position that provides particular opportunities for the dissemination of our research work alongside conventional routes. Our published materials (in a range of media) reach very significant audiences across the world and these provide highly effective, highly respected and highly demanding means of dissemination. Producing OU publications involves extensive consultation with academics, policy makers, service providers and service users. The networks built up in the process form other highly effective routes to dissemination.

These features have enabled our research to gain a visible national and international reputation. Our work on managerialism and welfare state reform; the regulation of health care; biographical approaches to social policy research; and policy and practice around children and young people are all recognised as major contributions to this subject area. Emerging work around discourses of social care; social welfare and social diversity; and the development of reflexive practice in social care are adding to the breadth and depth of the OU’s reputation.

The Research Structure and Environment
Research in this subject continues to be based in two units of the University: the Faculty of Social Sciences (which contains the Social Policy discipline) and the School of Health and Social Welfare. Both operate Research Committees headed by Research Sub-Deans. The OU devolves the bulk of HEFC research funding to the unit level, and a major responsibility of the Research Committees is to allocate this money. The two units share a common funding policy, which is to enable as many non-active researchers to become active as possible; to provide pump-priming money and bridging funds for more established researchers; and to support worthwhile research which is unlikely to attract external funding. The Committees also review research plans and progress, identify new directions for development, and provide support to projects, students and individual researchers.

These two academic units are located within the wider research environment of the OU which provides a strong research orientation as well as institutional planning, management and funding systems. The OU is a UK institution, with a developed regional structure. While most research activity and resources are concentrated on the Milton Keynes campus, both academic staff and research students are located in the 13 regional centres. These are increasingly well supported by the library’s expanding online resources and electronic networking. The University’s research mission is enshrined in its Charter and is managed through the Research Board. This is headed by the Pro-Vice Chancellor
(Research & Staff) and provides the strategic direction for research across the University. In the current period, the University has ensured that a high level of research income is devolved to academic units and established a Strategic Research Initiative fund to which this subject group made a number of successful bids to increase research staffing. In 2000 the OU established a Research School to develop the University’s research infrastructure further and foster a flourishing research community.

Centres and Research Groups
Our work addresses a range of subject areas, using a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. It ranges from innovative theoretical work to the development of new frameworks for practice. At present, our research activity is organised in relation to two centres: the Social Policy Research Centre and the Centre for Policy and Practice. Research groups are located in the Centres but individuals are encouraged to work across groups and centres, as will be seen below.

The Social Policy Research Centre
houses highly regarded work on managerialism and social policy and emerging studies of the relationships between welfare, nations and states. The work on discourses of social care, economic relations of social welfare, and the rise of community safety as a policy focus, are all significant recent developments. The Centre currently has five research groupings.

Changing Governance and Social Welfare has developed from the work on managerialism to examine new forms of control and coordination in the remaking of welfare states. It is one of the areas in which the OU has established national and international recognition, with staff being invited to participate in policy and academic developments in the UK, USA, Africa and Europe. The group has produced a substantial range of publications, most obviously Clarke’s book on the managerial state (1997, with Newman, Birmingham). A JSP review celebrated the ‘central role given to theoretical analysis’ which has been a major feature of our work here. The collection edited by Clarke, Gewirtz and McLaughlin (2000) develops this work in relation to ‘New Labour’. Davies’ work on changing processes and institutions of regulation in health care has been taken up by professional bodies (RCN) and government (DH). Mackintosh’s work on public management in social and health care in the UK and Africa (including ESRC and DfID funded research projects of over £119k) forms another central strand in this field. Gewirtz’s work on managerialisation in school governance has been influential in education studies (reflected in her appointment to a Chair in the subject at King’s College in 2001). An internally funded project (Changing Publics, Changing Public Services) is currently studying the role of audit and inspection in welfare governance (Humphrey with Clarke, Gewirtz and Hughes). The research group also includes Fergusson, Hughes, Langan, Thomas and Woods.

Crime and Community Safety combines studies in criminology, criminal justice systems and the recent rise of community safety. For a small grouping it has had a significant impact on the intellectual development of criminology, and is the institutional base for the forthcoming Sage Dictionary of Criminology (April 2001). Muncie’s work on youth justice in the UK and Australia has been very influential in shaping the contours of this field, while McLaughlin has made a major contribution to the study of policing. Hughes’ work on community safety (linking it to questions of risk in late modernity) has been path-breaking, and his book was described as ‘persuasive in its attempt to set crime prevention in the context of contemporary social theory’ (International Review of Victimology). He has now embarked on an internally funded study of Community Safety Officers as an emergent occupational group, and is a referee for Home Office research.

Discourses of Social Care, Family and Kinship is a focus for contemporary and historical work about family formation and processes in relation to social policy. This includes studies of gender and household formation; the family in law and social policy; and discourses of abuse, care and danger (with widely used work by Himmelweit, Langan and Saraga). Recent appointments have strengthened the existing work: e.g., Carabine (Cat. A*) (bringing innovative work on sexuality and social policy), Doolittle and Fink (bringing historical approaches to family formation and social policy). Work in this area is increasingly influential in reshaping approaches to family policy in both academic and national and policy settings. For example, Himmelweit convenes the high-profile Women’s Budget Group, advising government departments (Treasury, Number 10 Policy Unit) and is engaged (with Sigala) in an ESRC funded project (£37k) on caring behaviours.
Economic Relations and Processes in Social Welfare
has generated a body of influential work exploring the role of economic cultures, processes and relationships in social policy. This work has a strong empirical base but is also directed to renewing theoretical debate and analysis about social policy within economics, and about economics within social policy. There is a strong concern to explore alternatives to neo-classical approaches to public and private welfare choices. Current work examines economies of care and caring (Dawson, Himmelweit, Sigala); economic regulation and public services (Anand); economic cultures in public services (Mackintosh); processes of public and private decision-making (Anand, Dowie, Gillie, Sigala). Mackintosh’s work has been taken up internationally in both academic and policy settings (including in UNRISD). Himmelweit is a central figure in feminist economics and is a national and international advisor on gendered policy impacts. Anand has played a key role in the development of decision analysis as a field of study, being a founding editor of the journal Risk, Decision and Analysis.

Race, Gender, Class and Nation Formation
explores the place of social policy in processes of state, nation and social change, highlighting relations of social division and diversity. It combines historical and contemporary work on the UK with comparative studies. Lewis' work on racialised and gendered formations in post-colonial contexts is at the leading edge of developments in this field, and is recognised in invitation to give papers at a range of UK and international conferences (including a plenary at the SPA). With Gunaratnam, she is developing work on racialised settings of policy and practice. With Fink and Clarke, she has worked on changing nation/state formations in relation to European social policy and processes of globalisation in a volume soon to be published by Sage. They presented an integrated multi-paper session on these issues at the International Cultural Studies Conference in 2000. Many of these concerns were developed in the context of Rethinking Social Policy to which Lewis, Clarke and also Gewirtz and Mooney contributed.

The Centre for Policy and Practice is concerned with identifying innovations in care and examining the impact of policy on practice in the health and social care fields. It has grown in size and its strong reputation for user-focussed research has been enhanced in this period through international recognition for work on biographical and narrative methodologies in care settings. There has also been significant further development in the field of learning disability where we were already recognised for distinctive forms of participatory research with service users. Contributions to policy development at national level have been notable in the area of children’s services (Aldgate, Rose), protection of vulnerable adults (Brown) and professional regulation (Davies), an area which crosscuts the work of the two Centres.

Ageing and Biographical Studies. This research grouping has played a pioneering role in developing biographical methods and studies in British social science (Bornat, Bytheway, and Chamberlayne). Members were influential contributors to the 1998 World Congress of Sociology and went on, with ISA support and EU funding, to organise a further international conference on biographical methods and professional practice (Bornat and Chamberlayne). A dimension of European comparative research has been added with the 1999 recruitment of Chamberlayne, formerly Director of the seven country Social Strategies in Risk project at UEL. This work demonstrates the value of biographical methods in operationalising new policy concepts (capacity building, for example) and contributes to growing research in the area of culturally differentiated approaches to capital. The strong reputation for substantive work on ageing has been sustained through a series of sizeable grant funded projects. An ESRC programme funded project on stepfamilies, linking work on families and older people (Peace, Dimmock and Bornat £93k) has been followed with a second ESRC grant to work on environment and identity in later life (Peace £218k). There has been a major DH funded project on older people and medication making use of biographical methods, and findings are now emerging (Bytheway and Johnson £279k). One PhD student completed in this period (Percival) and a further three (Holland, Jones and Smith) are currently attached to this group.

Learning Disability Studies is a further area where we have an established a major reputation. We house the leading journal in the field: the British Journal of Learning Disabilities. Our research straddles two major content areas; advocacy and self-advocacy, and the history of learning disability. The areas are conceptually linked through a common focus on user involvement and participatory research and methodology. Researchers in this group (Atkinson, Walmsley, Brigham, Rolph) have pioneered the use of biographical, life history and oral history methods with people with learning difficulties. The group has produced three edited collections (including Forgotten Lives which was favourably reviewed in 16 journals); two special issues of the BJLD; numerous papers and chapters; and has hosted five national conferences. The group has attracted funds from the Wellcome Foundation (£500) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (£67K); and support for its work from the National Development Team and the British Institute of Learning Disabilities. The work of this group links with others, both in terms of methodology (biography and oral history) and content (advocacy in other health & social care areas). Four postgraduates - Anderson, Stuart, Mitchell and Rolph - have completed doctorates and Williams, Chapman, Clement and Ledger are currently registered for PhDs.

Children, Young People and the State. Work in this area further reflects our concern with theoretical and applied issues. This group has a unifying focus on children's quality of life, embracing discourses on childhood, children's status and citizenship (Roche, Saraga, and Aldgate) as well as innovative research on children's perspectives (Aldgate, Tucker, Jones and Seden). A second strand recognises the contribution of adults to safeguarding and promoting children's welfare (Stainton Rogers, Aldgate, Dimmock, Rashid, and Rose), work which extends to processes of education; youth transitions and youth justice (Fergusson, Gewirtz, Muncie). The group is justifiably proud of the impact its research has made on national policy, practice and training (see RA6). Recognition of the group's scholarship continues with a tender awarded from the DH to host an international seminar of Child Welfare Experts this year (£15k). The group has attracted a range of competitive funding from government over the review period (Aldgate £21k (DH), Rose £22k (DH), £51k (CCETSW)) and from other sources (Tucker £10k (AYME), Rose £8k). The group has 7 part-time PhD students, Chappell, Clark, Johns, Pike, Seden, Ulanowsky, Wild, plus Odell who completed in 1998.

Health Studies covers a grouping whose unity lies in its recognition of the need to go beyond the biomedical model of illness to explore a wider range of factors affecting the quality of life and quality of care. New work on health promotion reflects this – offering a distinctively new agenda for promoting children’s health, bringing issues of transport to the fore (Jones), and placing inequality at the centre of studies concerned with black and minority ethnic communities (Douglas, Darr). A larger strand of activity centres on long-term care, chronic illness and death and dying. Publications are emerging from the first largescale, DH-funded (£106k) study of death and dying in residential homes (Katz, Komaromy, Sidell). These indicate that lessons from hospice care are not effectively crossing over to the nursing/residential homes sector and that a broad definition of palliative care has yet to take root. Contributions developing new understandings of multiculturalism link with this (Gunaratnam, Katz). Links between health and social care are to the fore in an influential and very active stream of work on quality of life in residential care settings. This is represented by Peace’s book Re-evaluating Residential Care, (described as 'timely, well-written and accessible' in the Health Service Journal), by her ESRC-funded work on environment and identity (see above) and by University-funded work linking regulation with everyday experience of living in small residential homes (Peace). Quality of life achieved though home care is a further related project (Peace £13k Kings Fund). Quality of life with chronic illness is an area where Lloyd, using epidemiological methods, is working with external colleagues on diabetes. Results of the DH-funded study located in the Ageing area will have lessons for primary care practitioners in the long-term care field (Bytheway, Johnson).

The recruitment of more professionally qualified staff and an emphasis on producing distance learning materials for professional development has provided opportunities to broaden our research to focus on changing demands on practitioners who work in the health care field. Davies completed a study of professional self-regulation (£165k by competitive tender from UKCC). Her gender critique of classic professionalism provides for debates about new kinds of professionalism needed in the present era. Aspects of changing professional identity are explored in work on alternative practice (Birch), in challenges of working across difference (Gunaratnam) and in a project underway with University funds, deliberately linking our two research centres on race, gender and professional identity (Gunaratnam, Lewis and Davies). This strand of work links to key staff development themes in the NHS Plan, for example, evidence-based practice and mentoring and supervision (Gomm, Spouse). There are currently four doctoral students attached to the health group (Buckley, Burden, Savage, Smith) and four students have completed during the assessment period (Finlay, Woodward, Mallett, Johns).

Critical Issues in Care has emerged as a growing group that spans both the health and social care areas. It includes a strong strand of work on improving practice skills in social work/social care (Dimmock, Reynolds, Rashid, Seden). Abuse in care and the protection of vulnerable adults figures here and has also been a feature of the influential work by Brown (Cat. C). This was recognised in an ESRC-funded seminar series on adult abuse led by Walmsley. A shift from the much-used notion of ‘reflective practice’ to ‘critical practice’ helps to underpin much of this work, as well as the work on professionalism noted above. It demonstrates how we can effectively link conceptual innovation in research with accessible forms of dissemination though co-publication involving the Open University and mainstream academic publishers (Brechin). Work drawing from this and also from all five groupings in this Centre, features in Care Matters. This edited collection has been described by a reviewer as ‘challenging’ and as providing a ‘broader understanding of the nature of care’ than has been available elsewhere (Quality in Ageing). It demonstrates how the research of the Centre is increasingly providing underpinning theory and knowledge about the continuities and discontinuities in care work in different settings and with different client groups. There are currently four doctoral students attached to the group (Forbat, Bayliss, Spate and Henderson) and two recently completed (Jones and French). For the future, we would see the Critical Issues in Care group as capable of drawing out further lessons on working across the health/social care boundary and linking interests of staff in the two Centres.

Sustaining the Research Culture

Growth and diversification over the last five years has produced challenges for the integration of existing and new interests, and for bringing together existing and new staff and students. We have made a sustained effort to produce a research culture that embeds all our work within the distinctive OU orientations towards interdisciplinarity, collaboration, innovation and dissemination, as described at the outset. Each of these is important in helping to sustain the quality of our work and to foster a strong research culture.

The commitment to interdisciplinary approaches to social policy remains a powerful element. Our success in looking across disciplinary boundaries has led to productive intersections with sociology (around questions of modernity, diversity and national identities); with history (around policing and family and household formation); with politics and public administration (around new state forms and governance); with psychology (around discourse and diversity) with cultural studies (around issues of inclusion, identity and changing national and organisational cultures); with economics (around changing economic processes and cultures); and with anthropology (around new state-citizen relationships). Such encounters have enriched our approaches to social policy, but have also helped to embed attention to social policy and welfare in other fields. We have sustained our view of policy and practice as professionally interdisciplinary, particularly in the context of changing occupational and professional roles and changing demands for, and on, multi-agency and multi-professional working and partnership. We continue to play a leading role in developing new theoretical approaches in the field, ‘rethinking’ social policy in ways that revitalise the conceptual frameworks of the field. This is most evident in Lewis’ work on postcolonial theory and social welfare (originating in an OU PhD) and in Clarke’s exploration of the intersections between cultural theory and social policy. The five books in the Routledge ‘Welfare, Power and Diversity’ series (e.g., Langan, Saraga) exemplify the commitment to make new scholarship available in accessible forms (and were the subject of a multiple review in the SPA News).

Maintaining a collaborative approach has been a key mechanism for sustaining the research culture. We make use of workshops and seminars to explore the intersection of different interests around a common research topic or theme. For example, a series of Regulation workshops brought together work on managerialism, inspection, and professional regulation and enabled links with colleagues elsewhere working on related issues. Collaboration with external academics is encouraged: Dowie and Gewirtz have been core members of funded research teams based at the School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine, and the Institute of Education; Aldgate has submissions from research collaborations with Hill at Glasgow and Tunstill at London, Royal Holloway; Carabine is working with Cooper (Keele) on an ESRC-funded project. International links are also strong, e.g., Mackintosh has been working with Tanzanian researchers on health regulation; Clarke is involved in European and North American collaborations on changing state forms. We have an institutional arrangement with the University of Connecticut to produce a book on social work management in 2003. The OU is a member of the 'Making Research Count' dissemination federation of six universities and has actively contributed its research output to study days.
We have deliberately used our national position to host and develop collaborative scholarship, for example by funding a year-long rolling seminar programme on 'Rethinking Social Policy'. This brought together leading figures from across the field and has resulted in a major publication under this title (eds. Lewis, Gewirtz and Clarke), which also provides a resource for the Master's programme in Social Policy. The UoA sponsored a two-day workshop combining OU and external researchers to examine the relationship between managerialism and New Labour’s programme of welfare reform. The workshop reflected the OU’s leading role in this topic and its capacity to attract enthusiastic collaboration from external colleagues. It resulted in a collection edited by Clarke, Gewirtz and McLaughlin, also used in the new Master’s programme.

The continuing commitment to collaboration with service users enlivens our research agenda and processes in a number of ways. It helps to define topics and focal points for research. It informs the construction and execution of research projects. In particular, it influences the development of methodologies that seek to present the experiences and views of users (notably through the use of biographical methods). Our work also emphasises developing sophisticated ethical approaches to service users as research respondents (e.g. interviewing children in need, adults with learning disabilities, etc.). Service users have also been recruited to shape research instruments (see, for example, Aldgate's study of short-term fostering). Above all, there is a serious commitment across several research groupings to develop dissemination strategies that will ensure that user views are heard by policy makers and practitioners.

We have fostered innovation in the use of new methodological approaches to the study of social policy, building on biographical approaches discussed in previous submissions and strengthening this by strategic appointments (Chamberlayne). Sustained theoretical innovation enables us to engage with issues in new ways, recently developing work, for example, on race and emotional labour (Gunaratnam, Lewis) and community safety (Hughes). We have also developed work that is innovatory in national policy. Rose was primary consultant to the Inter-departmental Assessment Framework for Children in Need. Aldgate’s research on children in need informed the DH’s ‘Quality Protects Initiative’. Brown has played a significant role in the development of policy and guidance concerning the care of vulnerable adults. Davies’ work on medical regulation has become increasingly influential in relation to the changing governance of health care. Himmelweit has been a key figure in encouraging government to rethink the basis of economic and budgetary policy in relation to households. Mackintosh has been active in international deliberations about new approaches to health and welfare provision in low income countries. Ensuring that staff are freed to engage directly with policy issues is seen as enhancing the quality of both our research and our teaching.

Finally, the dissemination of research has a very high significance given the OU’s distinctive public role. We are committed to the importance of communicating our research through as many routes as possible. We place a particularly high value on integrating research and teaching. Our research on managerialism influenced both a new second level course on social policy and a course in the new Master's Programme in Social Sciences. Research on children and families has fed into two new second level courses on working with children and families. The OU’s national role and international reach means that OU materials reach wide and diverse audiences. Academic colleagues and students, practitioners and users of welfare services use these materials and we remain committed to sustaining their base in high quality research and scholarship and their very strong reputation for intellectual leadership in the social policy field. Teaching also influences research. Current research on the dynamics of social care, on children's involvement in welfare processes, social care management and on New Labour and welfare reform have all emerged from work developed initially in the context of OU course teams.

Research Leadership
The strength of the OU's research leadership in social policy lies in its combination of formal and informal structures. Strategic decisions are lead by four professors (Aldgate, Clarke, Davies and Mackintosh) in collaboration with the Sub Deans and democratically elected Research Committees across the two units. Overseeing research proposals and supporting research students are important dimensions of this work. The Professors also take a lead on developing research networks both within and outside the university. They have a particular responsibility for supporting newly appointed staff, and linking them with research groupings. Thus, a permanent professorial presence combined with rotating committee membership brings continuity and dynamism to the research leadership. At the same time, the commitment to collaborative working means there is a visible culture of collective self development. Research groups create their own leadership processes within the broader strategy of the UoA, forging the particular foci of scholarship and providing integration and support for individuals. This combination of vertical and horizontal leadership has played a central role in enabling development of the breadth and depth of research activity reported here.

Staffing Policy
We encourage all academic staff to be research active and to be part of the intellectual community in which research takes place. Staff planning, recruitment and development have received greater attention as management processes in recent years. As a consequence, we have been able successfully to combine the planned replacement of departing staff with a pattern of new recruitment. Senior staff retiring or leaving to take up prestigious positions elsewhere (Dowie, Gewirtz, Woods) have been replaced and new staff have been appointed, both reinforcing existing research interests and enriching the range of possibilities. We are delighted that the University has created a second chair in Social Policy, to be filled later this year. We have taken steps to strengthen the research culture and deepen the level of research activity by making research-centred appointments. A number of these have been the result of successful bids to the University’s Strategic Research Initiative, reflecting the internal reputation enjoyed by research in this area. The Initiative has funded the recruitment of four new research based posts (Bytheway, Carabine, Chamberlayne, Gunaratnam).

We have systematically recruited new scholars who are building research and publishing profiles and who enhance already established research directions (e.g. Fink, Gunaratnam, Humphrey and Sigala). Mentors and supervisors have responsibilities for enabling the research development of recently appointed staff. Equivalent arrangements are used to support existing staff in becoming, or returning to being, research active (for example, after substantial teaching commitments). Alongside personal support, all staff have access to research funds to develop or support research activity. We also recognise and value the contribution of contract research staff. The University's current Research Plan gives a commitment to providing appropriate training, career guidance and a supportive environment. The UoA offers opportunities for bridging funds, taken up by Rolph, Darr and Bytheway, and invites contract research staff to bid for funding on an equal basis with others.

One category of staff, staff tutors (who perform an academic management role based in the University’s regional offices) has different terms of service in which research activity has a lower priority and is less well resourced. Nevertheless, staff tutors do engage in research activity (e.g, Birch, Brigham, Doolittle, Fergusson, Mooney, Saraga, Woods). We are committed to supporting these staff in research, even though their levels of research activity and output at present may be lower (Birch, Brigham). We are also investing in enabling others to begin doing research (e.g., through postgraduate study, Higginson, Pinkney, Ulanowsky).

Postgraduate Students
At the census date we had 25 postgraduate students (6 full-time, 14 part-time external and 5 part-time internal). In addition, we currently have 3 students awaiting vivas and 2 students writing-up. Postgraduate students, whether internal or external, are encouraged to be active members of the Research community. We have ESRC Mode B recognition on the basis that students take part in programmes available across the University, as well as in subject specific activities. Students are also advised to take part in training and development events provided by the Research School and the Library (e.g. writing and presentation skills; literature searches and uses of the Web for researchers). Students’ entry to the OU begins with an Induction Day: a day of discussions, introductions and demonstrations – meeting other postgraduates, their supervisors and other research and teaching staff. All students also receive an Induction Pack. In the summer of each year, all full-time and part-time students, and their supervisors, are invited to a Postgraduate Students Training Day.

A series of day-long research seminars is held during the academic year. This is an internal and external showcase of research methodology and findings, and research-in-progress. Seminars are open to central and regional academic staff from across the University, and to colleagues from local agencies, as well as to postgraduate students. Alongside the seminars, a series of research methods workshops are held throughout the year. Staff with expertise in, for example, interviewing, multi-method research, triangulating data and statistics lead such sessions. Although the workshops are designed primarily for research students, they are open to and welcomed by staff who are new to research – or interested in a particular methodology.

Each full-time student has a desk and work-station in a room reserved for research students. Full-time students are allocated to one or (more usually) two internal supervisors; part-time students similarly have one or two internal supervisors and may have an additional external supervisor. Recently appointed supervisors are encouraged to undertake training; and all new supervisors are paired in a co-supervision arrangement with a more experienced colleague. A programme of 3-4 supervisors' meetings is held each year, organised by the two Research Supervisor Training Co-ordinators, in conjunction with the Sub-Deans (Research). Topics of interest and concern are dealt with throughout the year (for example, research ethics; co-supervising; progress monitoring; probation reports; and preparing for a viva). All students have an annual progress meeting with their supervisors from which a report is produced and signed by everyone. In addition, each student is allocated a third-party monitor who meets with the student to discuss general issues relating to progress and more pastoral concerns relating to supervision, and reports to the Sub-Deans (Research).

The OU extends its policy of openness and flexibility of access as far as possible to the postgraduate area. The system of internal and external supervisors means that geography is no bar to registration and part-time registration – enabling practitioners in the health and welfare fields to develop research skills – is encouraged. While the present review period has seen some expansion, (including UoA funded studentships), we see considerable room for further growth in this area. The new Masters programme will both feed this and prepare students for the distinctive theoretical approaches to social policy characteristic of the Unit. Furthermore, the support of the new university-wide Research School in setting targets and reviewing systems will be a key to future developments.

Additional Observations
The research output has been selected to demonstrate both the work in areas of excellence and the broad base of individual research activity. Where staff have more than four submissible pieces of work (over 60 per cent of those selected) we have made selections on the basis of illustrating the main themes and topics of the submission, rather than out of a preference for types of output. In addition to the normal mix of books, chapters, journal articles and some new media (CD-ROM, online publication and so on) we have made selective and limited use of books produced by the OU in conjunction with external publishers. These are included where the publication represents significant intellectual innovation; links to, or draws on, the author's/authors' own research; or clearly takes forward theory and/or practice in its subject. Such publications supplement the normal means of dissemination and reflect the OU’s distinctive public role. They are based on bringing together ‘leading edge’ work from the OU and elsewhere to speak to a wide set of audiences, ranging well beyond our own students.

Our outputs reflect both grant-aided and internally funded projects. We have had three major ESRC grants, a presence in ESRC programmes and a seminar series, DH funding for substantial projects and a range of monies from charitable and other sources.


Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

[ Home | About the RAE2001 | Results | Submissions | Overview reports | Panels | Guidance for panel members
| Guidance for institutions | Publications  ]