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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Structure & Environment Two academic units contribute to research in Education: the University of Sussex Institute of Education (USIE) and the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE). The latter contributes particularly to Themes B and C and also to other Units of Assessment. USIE created a Research and Development Committee (RDC) in 1997, on which CCE is represented, to take responsibility for research strategy, to promote excellence in research and to support and monitor research in progress. While supporting faculty in developing new ideas, the RDC also seeks to consolidate and expand existing strengths. It exercises leadership through grouping coherent and mutually reinforcing areas of research into themes which reflect the interdisciplinary and international character of Education at Sussex. Our present themes are:

A. International Education and Development (Convenor Keith Lewin)
Professional and Continuing Education (Convenor Michael Eraut)
B. Professional Formation and Development
C. Learning Communities
Learning, Teaching and Assessment (Convenors Joan Bliss, Harry Torrance)
D. Assessment and Evaluation
E. Learning & Teaching in Maths, Science and IT
F. Arts Education and Aesthetics (Convenor Peter Abbs)

Within this structure, themes B and C comprise a strand of linked activity, as do themes D and C, while themes A and F are pursued by single research groups. Several members of faculty contribute to two themes and the faculty seminar programme covers all six themes, providing much cross-fertilisation of ideas. Each theme has a convenor whose role is to support and encourage faculty and to develop collaborative research activities, which give the theme coherence and enhance its reputation with users, policy makers and the research community. All convenors are members of the RDC, which meets twice a term to: develop and review strategy; support and monitor research; and receive theme convenors' termly reports. Theme members meet at least once a term to discuss research progress, embryonic research proposals, draft publications and external research papers. Since the last RAE almost all HEFCE R-stream income has been converted, after central top slicing, into research time for faculty; the infrastructure is mainly funded from other income. Research time is distributed as work-units to faculty on the basis of their publication record, additional units being awarded on the basis of specific bids. We plan in future to give greater priority to research plans and make longer-term allocations of resources to allow better planning of academic activities. This will help individuals to enhance the quality of their research and "earn" higher allocations, as well as to assist new faculty.
Doctoral students are an important part of our research culture. Since 1996 we have sustained the size of our DPhil programme (currently 53 ftes) while improving our completion rate to an average of 11 per year (54 over the period and 4 MPhils). Our research training programme is approved by ESRC for full-time and part-time studentships. In addition to the formal training and individual supervision, the termly seminar programme includes : two research Saturdays for faculty and students; 3-4 afternoon seminars given by invited speakers; 6-8 lunch-time seminars focussed on Learning Communities and Adult Education; several ad hoc seminars given by international visitors. Our research training provision will be increased in 2001/02, in line with the new ESRC 1+3 model of research training. A new university course for research students across the social sciences is being piloted, to which we will contribute electives of special concern to Education. Research students have their own room with new fully-networked computers and printing facilities and access to software for quantitative and qualitative data analysis. They also have access to the USIE computing laboratory, University computer laboratories (some open 24 hours) and a significant range of University training programmes.
A user orientation has always been a distinctive feature of education research at Sussex. Our user groups have broadened over the years to include: practitioners, managers, teacher educators, staff developers, policy makers in formal education, aspects of continuing education, other public service professions and informal education in the community and the workplace. Recently, research has also focused on learning in private and voluntary sector organisations. This means that there is an emphasis on building partnerships and user participation in research with schools, colleges, LEAs, professional organisations and a wide range of employers. Our policy research incorporates client and practitioner perspectives as well as the varied concerns of managers and policy makers. Thus users find our work both rigorous and relevant. Most of our teaching, at doctoral or masters level, is focused on a combination of critical reading and empirical enquiry, with action research projects often replacing the traditional dissertation. We have recently developed a Professional Doctorate programme to strengthen these applied research links still further. We also publish substantial research reports in-house to ensure rapid dissemination to interested parties including user groups, some of whom purchase multiple copies for distribution to their members and clients.
We have a strong International Education group at Sussex. Four full-time USIE faculty carry out research exclusively in developing countries, a similar number engage in research with a significant International dimension, yet others are involved in European research networks. Colclough and Gaventa are USIE joint appointments with the Institute of Development Studies in the next building. Thus the International and Comparative Education discourse permeates our research environment. Our International user groups include several National Governments, International Aid Agencies and Higher Education Institutions overseas.
The newly developed Learning Communities theme is unusual in ranging across formal and informal learning contexts, and incorporating schools, post-compulsory education and lifelong learning perspectives. As argued in RA5c, this offers novel opportunities for comparing issues of exclusion and participation within organisations as well as across more formally defined boundaries, and to apply non-formal perspectives on learning in formal contexts and the role of at least semi-structured perspectives in informal contexts. Appropriately, this research group includes faculty from CCE, USIE, IDS and the Teaching and Learning Development Unit.
These salient features of our research culture contributed to the highly successful BERA Conference we hosted in 1999. Local teacher researchers, senior members of other professions, doctoral students and USIE faculty all contributed papers.

Staffing Policy and Staff Development USIE and CCE have continued to combine teaching, research and service to the local community. Although the national research environment is becoming more difficult in Initial Teacher Training, research continues at Sussex on mentoring, assessment and ITT policy. Some faculty are recruited for their research achievements and potential. Some are recruited for specific professional expertise, but with little research experience. Our policy is to support this latter group to do doctoral research, without allowing their recent and relevant professional experience to atrophy. Four members of faculty in Category A and one in Category B obtained doctorates during the review period. Three faculty members are currently registered for doctorates. The need for more qualified research supervisors and researchers has been an important influence on recent appointments. In the last three years all four new members of USIE's full-time teaching staff were appointed with doctorates to posts specifying particular research themes. All new faculty are assigned a mentor to assist them. Both the role of research in faculty members' overall workload and specific targets for research and publication are discussed at a biennial appraisal; while provision of support is the theme convenor's role. USIE faculty development covers workshops on aspects of research supervision, research generation, proposal writing, planning, ICT training. Every faculty member has a networked computer with e-mail, internet and a full range of software; and access to a conference fund.


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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