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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

1. Self-assessment - period since the last RAE

Since the 1996 RAE the University structure has changed to a devolved, campus based academic management structure and this has had implications for the research and teaching activities within the newly formed (1998) School of the Built Environment (SBE). Two changes are relevant to research carried out since 1996 and to current research activities and research culture.

The departmental and school structure within the University has allowed staff to work together in more coherent subject groupings. This has produced some important benefits but it has also resulted in the need to ensure that cross-disciplinary research interests have continued to be fostered. This has to a large extent been supported by the second change - namely the creation of a University-wide Graduate School and Graduate Centres which are located within each school. The aim of this has been to develop and co-ordinate activities related to research degree students and in particular to support the RAE strategy of each school. The Built Environment Graduate Centre is responsible for co-ordinating matters concerned with research degree students located in SBE and also for co-ordinating research activities including the RAE submission. These activities are managed by the Director of the Graduate Centre for Built Environment who also chairs the Graduate Centre Working Group, which exists to disseminate information related to research activity and to devise and monitor research policy within SBE.

The development of the Graduate Centre has helped us to adopt a more coherent policy towards research degree applicants. In addition, the change to a departmental structure and the creation of the Built Environment Graduate Centre have helped the School to develop further the research groupings and research clusters that were identified in RAE 1996. In some cases this has meant changes in the clusters (for instance the research carried out within Planning and Urban Design has evolved to include specific named centres of expertise) while in others, the main developments have been to strengthen links to other discipline areas and the growth in externally funded research activity (e.g. Transport).

For reporting and monitoring purposes all research active staff within the School whose research is referred to in this submission are regarded as being a member of one of the three research groupings identified in RAE 1996, namely: (i) Transport (ii) Planning & Urban Design and (iii) Housing and Construction Policy. However, because of the interdisciplinary nature of the research in Built Environment and the opportunities to develop specific initiatives there are now a number of overlapping research clusters within the School.

The clusters include: Planning, Urban Design, Transport, Housing, Tourism, Sustainability in Building, Central Cities Institute, Centre for Sustainable Development and Centre for Urban and Regional Governance Max Lock Centre. The clusters bring together experienced Research Active Staff (RAS) with other less experienced staff who in some cases are not yet in a position to submit a sufficient body of work for the RAE. Certain staff are members of more than one research cluster. For example, members of the Transport Studies Group are active within the Centre for Sustainable Development (CfSD). Inevitably this structure is more complex than a simple and rigid research group structure but it more fairly reflects the growing interest in interdiscplinary research. However it is still relevant to report on progress since 1996 under three broad headings:- Transport, Planning and Urban Design and Housing and Construction Policy. The later sections of the RA5 explain how cross-disciplinary work has been encouraged and set out the research plans for the future.

The Transport Studies Group (TSG) comprises a multi-disciplinary team of 17 research and 4 teaching staff including three professors (Director, Professor Peter Jones). It has a strong national and international reputation and is one of the few major UK transport research groups based in a School of the Built Environment. Staff listed in RA2 whose work is reported on within this Research Group heading include: Allen (Julian), Browne, Dennis, Graham, Jones, Lucas and White.

TSG research is very broadly based, covering the main transport modes and with specialist expertise in both passenger and freight transport and logistics. Its research focuses on policy, planning, management and operational issues, ranging from the theoretical and methodological to the applied. External research sponsors since 1996 have included: EPSRC, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, RTPI, DETR, Health Education Authority, European Commission, UK Local Authorities, London Transport, AA Foundation, RAC Foundation, as well as rail, shipping and airline/airport operators and the freight transport industry.

Mode-based studies have included: developing new techniques for monitoring and evaluating station facilities and for estimating values of rail reliability; research into airline hubbing and the development of regional airports; the impacts of bus deregulation on safety and efficiency; impacts of transport policy and e-commerce on the supply chain. In addition to this programme of modal research, the Group has expanded its range of multi-modal studies, contributing to major advances in our understanding of the impacts of different policy measures on attitudes and travel behaviour, and in the areas of market research, transport telematics and project appraisal. Over the past four years TSG has also been involved in eight major European research projects funded by the European Commission.

Some of this work has had a direct influence on policy and practice, and has been referenced in Government policy documents. In accordance with the plan set out in the last RAE submission, the work of the Group has broadened to look at the interrelationships between transport and other sectors of the economy. TSG hosts the co-ordinating unit, funded by London Transport and DETR, to look at the impacts of the Jubilee Line Extension in London on all aspects of economic and social life (traffic and travel, land use, regeneration, employment and economic activity, environment). This co-ordinating unit has made use of the specialist expertise beyond transport that exists elsewhere in the School and has been an example of the benefits of the TSG location within a wider setting of the Built Environment. TSG is also co-ordinating a major initiative sponsored by the RAC Foundation for Motoring and the DETR called Civilising Cities, looking at how transport - in co-operation with other partners - can contribute to improving the urban quality of life across a broad variety of indicators. Three other projects are focusing on particular links with transport: health, sustainable property development and social exclusion. Given the recent development of this strand of work, and the long term nature of several of these projects, this research is not fully reflected in the publications submitted in this round. The theme of sustainability (see later section on CfSD) has also provided the basis for research into new approaches to urban freight distribution. This EPSRC funded research has allowed the Group to bring together work in the behavioural and survey methodology area with work on freight and logistics.

International collaborative work has included a study of use of the Cairo Metro by low-income groups, with the Egyptian National Institute of Transport (ENIT) funded by DfID. Further work in public transport has been undertaken on performance of the local bus industry, impacts of rail privatisation, and role of express coach services in the UK and comparisons to other European countries.

There are close links between the Group’s research programme and the School’s two MSc courses in Transport Planning & Management and European Logistics. With the development of a broad-based, professional research infrastructure the Group is starting to expand its full-time PhD programme. Recent competitive funding has been obtained from Rees Jeffreys and DETR for two full-time PhDs.

Planning and Urban Design
Staff listed in RA2 whose work is reported on within this Research Group heading include: Bailey, Herrschel, Lloyd-Jones, Newman and Roberts. Planning and Urban Design research has expanded to include two further active researchers in urban design and through the development of the interdisciplinary centre discussed below, now includes a researcher from the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, who is a founding member of the new Centre for Urban and Regional Governance (Herrschel). Planning and Urban Design research continues to fall into several areas with overlapping interests. Since RAE 1996, the Max Lock Centre has developed as an established research group with substantial external funding and cross-institutional pedagogical research and has assumed a significant role within planning research within SBE.

In the 1996 RAE statement, reference was made to the development of European comparative research. This work has since been consolidated in the interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Urban and Regional Governance (CURG) which brings together researchers from both the School of the Built Environment and the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages. CURG has completed a comparative study of city-region governance and studies of planning and development issues in the transition of post-socialist states.

Research on regeneration, city identity, mixed use development and future city structure has continued with the completion of refereed articles, a book (Reclaiming the City) and externally funded projects. An element of the funding (DevR) resulting from RAE 1996 has been applied to a study of cultural regeneration in the South Bank. The work has generated outputs in the form of refereed articles and international conference contributions.

Two strands of research in urban design have been pursued. The first has involved an exploration of the connections between gender relations, technology and future city structure. Current outputs include invited papers at international research seminars and published international conference papers which will form the basis for future exploration and collaboration. The second has been setting up a Central Cities Institute. This involves a collaboration between staff in planning and urban design and architecture, together with representatives of the private sector. The purpose of the Institute will be to continue the work on mixed use development by exploring the problems which are particular to city centres, especially with regard to residential communities.

Research in urban design and planning related to regeneration and culture provides a link with research in tourism which has become a more important part of the overall research activity of the school since RAE 1996. Tourism research includes new projects relating to sustainable indicators for tourism (being developed by Dr Graham Miller – new member of staff at early stage of career and not named in RA1/2) and a DETR funded project ‘planning for leisure and tourism’.

Other research in tourism has concentrated on issues concerning the planning, management and marketing of destinations. The complexity of destinations as amalgamations of private enterprises, public goods and public sector organisations requires an integrated planning approach to be adopted in order to ensure long term sustainability. Research has also concentrated on the strategic issues raised by the use of information technology and in particular the use of IT for tourism destinations and for small and medium-sized tourism enterprises. The research has explored planning, management and marketing issues. A review has also been published concerning Destination Management Systems and the scope for the further development of Computer Reservation Systems as strategic tools for the integrated planning, management and marketing of tourism destinations.

Initial work on computer modelling and rapid urban planning contributed to the creation of the Max Lock Centre, which is a multidisciplinary research and consultancy group in international planning and urban development. Currently the Centre is undertaking DfID-funded research on good practice in core area development, based on mixed use, mixed tenure and cross-subsidisation. The project involves research and collaboration with institutions in Brazil, India and Indonesia. A second research project is investigating encouraging the transfer and access to research knowledge for improving the conditions of poor urban communities. The Centre mounted a national exhibition on the work of Max Lock and has recently contributed personnel to the British Council for monitoring the buildings programme of the Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Programme. Personnel from the Centre also act as advisors to DFID in London and Brussels. In September 1999 the Centre hosted the 16th InterSchools Conference on Development Planning on the theme: Communicating for Development.

Research in the fields listed above provides an academic underpinning for MA programmes in Urban Regeneration, Urban Design and Sustainable Development and has also attracted PhD students who are researching subjects including public art, and the use of indicators in urban regeneration.

Housing and Construction Policy (including Research in Building)
Staff listed in RA2 whose work is reported on within this Research group heading include: Allen (Judith), Jacobs, Jashapara, Littler, Manzi, Smith-Bowers. Research has concentrated on the following areas: Europe-wide housing issues, local housing policy and urban regeneration, social exclusion, temporary housing, construction management and sustainability in building design. In terms of methodological developments within housing, the focus has been on the use of discourse and social constructionist methodologies and their application. The area of housing has seen a substantial increase in publications and research activity from staff who were not included in the 1996 RAE exercise. The research focus on local housing policy and regeneration has explored the significance of language in policy research as well as the merits of interpretative and social constructionist methods of research for housing issues such as homelessness.

European comparisons have been an important element of the research work within housing and participation in EU-funded research has allowed the group to become part of wider networks and to extend the research in this area. The research encompasses issues of social exclusion and the development and management of UK social housing at a time of continuing financial restraint. Research has also been published on the impact of recent EC integrationist policies for social housing.

Trends in housing management constitute a further research strand within which an investigation of the significance of the new landlord policies intended to curb antisocial activity on housing estates has also resulted in published outputs. Research has also been carried out into organisational conflicts emerging as social housing organisations adopt commercial management practices.

The research referred to above has been concerned primarily with organisational, social and behavioural issues. The management aspects of construction have continued to be addressed (Dr Jashapara) resulting in both externally funded research and research papers. Research related to design and engineering carried out within the Research in Building (RIB) group has also continued and has increasingly been set within the broader context of sustainability (see outputs from Prof. Littler - Director of RIB). Although both Dr Jashapara and Professor Littler work alongside colleagues whose work will be assessed within UOA 34, we request that the work of Dr Jashapara and Professor Littler be referred to the Panel considering UOA 33.

Interdisciplinary initiatives
The Centre for Sustainable Development (CfSD) is an important interdisciplinary research network at the University of Westminster. CfSD provides a research platform from which to bid for multidisciplinary and cross-cutting projects. Current or recently funded research (not referred to within previous sections) includes: (i) Links between social exclusion and sustainable development, (ii) Local Agenda 21 as a model for community-based action - funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, (iii) Sustainable property development - funded by Rees Jeffreys Road Fund.

Research Degree students
The creation of the Graduate School Board and Graduate Centre structure in 1997 has delivered a University-wide framework with direct benefits for research students. The Board has assumed a distinct pro-active stance in establishing good practice in processes to support research students, including annual monitoring, interviews before transfer from MPhil to PhD, and the submission of research supervision logs to the Graduate Centre Director. There are 6 FT and 15 PT research degree students currently registered within the School. Since
RAE 1996 we have concentrated on maintaining broadly the same number of research degree students and ensuring that we expand the number only when we are fully confident that there are staff and other resources to support them. Where appropriate, research degree students work within a clearly defined research group - for example research on road pricing being carried out within the Transport Studies Group as a result of PhD funding from DETR. In other cases research degree students will be working mainly with their supervisor(s). The Director of the Graduate Centre Built Environment holds meetings with research degree students to discuss questions relating to school-wide support; these meetings supplement the formal supervisory meetings concerned with the detailed nature of the research. Research degree students participate in the Schools seminar programme (e.g. Transport Economists Group meetings, CfSD seminars, urban design workshops). In addition, research degree students are encouraged to present their work at relevant external events - for example Universities Transport Study Group Annual Conference. Funding is available for field work if appropriate and for participation in conferences. Since the last RAE, research degree completions stand at: nine PhD and two MPhil.

2. Research funding

Research funding for a selection specific projects has been referred to in the previous section. Many of the research studies identified above have been won in competitive bids against other universities. In addition, the research activities include a blend of both theoretical and applied studies. It has also been an explicit policy not to rely too heavily on one source of funding for research. Income from research funded by the research councils, government departments, the EU and private companies as well as the income from the 1996 RAE are all important and overall funding has increased during the period since the last RAE (see RA4).

The range of research interests and research clusters within the School of the Built Environment provides opportunities for research collaboration internally as can be seen in the assessment in the previous section and from the evidence of published work in RA2.

Information dissemination about research opportunities and the prospects for funded research are supported by a range of seminars and meetings. School-wide research seminars are complemented by seminars for smaller groupings such as the London Tourism Research Seminar, Transport Economists Group and the series of monthly research seminars, lectures and debates by both university and external speakers organised by the CfSD which groups together research active staff and non research active staff to share ideas for developing cross-disciplinary work built around the theme of sustainability. The School has acted as host to the BSA Sociology and Environment Group, Regional Studies Association and the French Planning Study Group. These activities help to promote research internally and bring the School's research to a wider audience (leading in turn to further funding).

During the period since the 1996 RAE the two members of staff with strong research records have left - Professor Barlow (Housing) and Dr Buhalis (Tourism). Although staff movement can clearly lead to some short term problems it is not seen as unduly negative that other good departments recognise our strengths. One result of the changes has been the appointment of a new member of staff who has research interests in tourism and sustainability (Dr Miller) this should strengthen the opportunity for further interdisciplinary research in the future.

3. Arrangements for promoting and supporting research
(i) Staffing policy
The School and the University are committed to the recruitment and retention of high quality, research-active staff. Consequently, research potential is a key criterion for the appointment of most new staff. The Professorial and Reader posts within the School are all established and have been in existence throughout the period since 1996. This has allowed the School to build on the success achieved in the previous RAE by encouraging the established members of the research community to work with less established colleagues.

Support for staff registered for PhDs includes the payment of fees and some teaching remission. Staff registered can also be considered for teaching remission related to proposed publications. Since 1996 PhDs have been completed by several members of staff including: Graham, Jacobs and Lucas. A number of staff are currently registered for MPhil/PhD both within and outside the university (e.g. Manzi, Howarth).

(ii) The framework for research support
Research support policy is devised and implemented by the Graduate Centre Working Group (Built Environment) in conjunction with the Head of School. The GCWG meets on a regular basis to consider all matters relating to the promotion and support of research within the School. Responsibility for the management of research budgets generally rests with the grant holder in the case of specific research grants or with a Research Group Director where the funding relates to more general research activities.

Support for research takes a variety of forms. Staff may be given teaching remission for specific projects or more generally to support them in a programme of research. For this to apply it is necessary for the research to be likely to result in a body of work suitable for RAE submission. This is subject to annual review by the Head of School and the Director of the Graduate Centre. Typically Research Active Staff will be given 108 hours relief (from a teaching load of 550 hours which may be further reduced to reflect other administrative activities). Staff receiving support prepare annual progress reports and these form the basis for decisions about continued support. This system has generally worked well. However, there are problems for staff who find their time spread too thinly between different activities and the system of teaching relief does not always resolve this. The School is therefore committed to moving to a structured system for sabbatical relief and provision has been made for this in the 2000/2001 budgets. Although modest to begin with, it is hoped that the structure will develop and provide additional support for high quality research activity.

Research posts have also been supported by the School using funding resulting from the 1996 RAE. These have been in a variety of forms - some have been fractional appointments while in other cases the whole post has been funded. Outputs from this activity are subject to monitoring by the Director of the Graduate Centre and the Head of School. The combination of teaching relief (referred to above) and the appointment of staff mainly concerned with research has been productive and has increased the range of outputs from the School.

The School also supports the research culture by providing financial assistance for conference and research seminar attendance and by encouraging staff to register for higher degrees where appropriate. Priority for conference attendance is given to those presenting papers and it is a requirement that a report is produced which allows for the wider dissemination of information. Over the last five years research active staff have been invited to present papers at a wide range of national and international conferences. The strength of research has been evident – for example TSG researchers presented 6 papers at the 1998 World Conference on Transport Research and 4 were selected for publication in refereed proceedings (overall 200 out of about 900 papers presented at the conference were published).

4. Description of research infrastructure

The University provides administrative support and advice on grants and awards through the Industrial Research and Support Unit. Interdisciplinary and collaborative research has been encouraged by the shared resources provided by the Project Support Centre and by the active participation of staff from across the School in initiatives such as the CfSD. The refurbishment of the Marylebone Campus has allowed us to create a dedicated seminar room used for CfSD meetings bringing together research staff from across the School. Supervision of research degree students by staff from different departments also acts as a link between research areas as well as utilising the specialist skills of staff. A number of joint supervision arrangements exist (for example between Transport and Urban Design).

The refurbishment of the Marylebone campus has also resulted in the formal allocation of office space for research degree students. The rooms provide desk space and computing facilities. In the past space was provided and organised on an ad hoc basis and this inevitably led to problems. Funding resulting from RAE 1996 has been used to support subscriptions to specialist periodicals and to provide an element of secretarial support at the School level for research activity.

5. Research strategy for period 2001-2006

Although research activity and research output has risen since RAE 1996 there remains scope to increase this further. Among the most important reasons for this are: (i) Continuing changes in government policy in the areas of transport, planning and the environment are leading to more research opportunities. (ii) The focus on integrating government policies across a range of activities provides specific research opportunities for research groups with the relevant range of interdisciplinary skills. (iii) Growing interest in international collaboration in research where the school has a good track record. (iv) The increasing importance of research for newly-established agencies in London (e.g. GLA, Mayor, Transport for London)

However, in considering the opportunity for extending the research activity of the school it is essential to do the following: (i) ensure that resources allow selected staff sufficient time for the further development of collaborative, cross-disciplinary research interests (such as social exclusion, urban and regional governance, sustainability and regeneration) and continued contribution to cross-cutting policy issues; (ii) expand the PhD programme in key areas where cross-disciplinary opportunities exist; (iii) continue to ensure that the research work is linked to the taught programmes; (iv) consolidate and strengthen the links with policy-makers at both national and international level.

The initiatives outlined above give rise to a number of specific developments that are planned within the existing research groups: (i) expand traditional planning and urban regeneration research to include aspects of cultural regeneration; (ii) broaden research initiatives to include gender relations, technologies and future city structure; (iii) extend the research in European cities to include issues of planning and governance of world cities; (iv) apply research skills and techniques developed in specific areas of research to other areas (as we have started to do with behavioural and focus group work in transport where we are now extending work that started in travel behaviour into the area of freight transport and logistics); (v) further develop evaluation techniques to include both qualitative and quantitative aspects.

We will continue to develop stronger working relations in the wider University context. Seed funding from the University Research Fund will enable us to build links between research in urban design at the Marylebone campus and research in design and media at the Harrow campus. There are also opportunities to strengthen the links between work within the School and the work of the Policy Studies Institute.

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

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