1 November 2020

Innovative new research projects in second phase of Centre for Global Higher Education

As its Transition Centre phase starts on 1 November 2020, CGHE outlines its 10 international higher education research projects for the next three years

The Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) has announced the ten projects that will occupy its Transition Centre phase through to 2023, eight of which will continue the centre’s previous work, with two new projects added.

CGHE, which launched in late 2015, confirmed in February that the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) will be providing a further three years of funding. On awarding CGHE transition centre funding, ESRC commented that the “scientific and other outputs from the Centre” in its first four years “made for an impressive record” and commended CGHE’s forward work programme for the Transition Centre.

It noted that “for the Centre to realise its potential at the Transition phase, it needs to build on existing research and focus on synthesis, dissemination, and impact, as well as on building capability and financial sustainability.”

‘Transition Centre’ refers to the ESRC framework of support in which designated social science centres like CGHE move from full funding to self-funding at the end of the Transition phase. In the next three years CGHE is funded at about 70 per cent the annual level applying in 2015-2020 with the main focus on bringing projects to completion, generating papers from the empirical research and linking the research to policy and practice in higher education. However, the flexible ESRC funding framework allows some new work in response to the fast changing global environment in higher education and science.

The first of the new projects investigates the role of research in higher education and conducts an international comparison of research evaluation systems. The Covid-19 pandemic and the urgent need for a vaccine has brought home to all the importance of scientific research and of international scientific cooperation.

The second new project is concerned with mapping the global policy space in higher education, including the role of donors and corporations, focusing on higher education in Africa and Central Asia/the Caucuses, and European higher education after Brexit.

The eight continuing projects cover issues on student learning in STEM and the use of STEM-related knowledge after graduation; the potential of digital technology; the graduate labour market and the associated equity issues; the effects of student debt on graduate decisions (family formation, home purchase); university governance in the UK and Europe; a statistical history of higher education staffing in England and France; the public good role of higher education; plus mass media and public perceptions of UK international graduates.

“We are enormously grateful to the ESRC and the UK social science community for this continued support. The transition centre provides CGHE with the means to continue our work and to maximise its effectiveness,” said CGHE Director Simon Marginson. “It also enables us to respond to the impact of the COVID pandemic on global higher education.”

“In 2020-2023, headquarted at Oxford where the Department of Education provides excellent support and a productive, cosmopolitan research community, we will continue to develop original academic publications, CGHE working papers, research findings bulletins, our global webinars programme and our public engagement in UK and beyond, and to promote the work of emerging researchers in the field of higher education studies.”

CGHE is directed by the Oxford Professor of Higher Education, Simon Marginson. Eight of the ten individual projects are led from Oxford and from the UCL Institute of Education, with the other two lead from Lancaster University and Lingnan University in Hong Kong. Further CGHE-affiliated researchers, engaged with the Centre’s projects, are located at the University of Bath and Surrey University in UK, and Hiroshima University in Japan, Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, Virginia Tech in the United States, and Technological University Dublin in Ireland.

CGHE Transition Centre projects

Project 1
Graduate Experiences of Employability and Knowledge (GEEK) Project
This project is a continuation of CGHE Project 3.3, ‘Understanding Knowledge, Curriculum and Student Agency.’ It examines how the students from the UK-SA project experience the first three years after their expected graduation from their degree courses. It will examine how students’ engagement with their discipline affects their lives in terms of worldviews and agency, employability and career, and wider social and cultural embeddedness in society.
Project leader: Paul Ashwin, Lancaster University (paul.ashwin@lancaster.ac.uk)

Project 2
Realising the potential of digital technology for scaling up higher
This project is a continuation of CGHE Project 3.4, ‘The transformational potential of MOOCs,’ which found that online technologies can be effective for professional education on the large scale because, unlike students, these participants do not need personalised support. This project will further analyse this data to determine the extent to which these large-scale course platforms generate learner communities via discussion forums, peer review and shared activities.
Project leader: Diana Laurillard, UCL Institute of Education (d.laurillard@ucl.ac.uk)

Project 3 (NEW PROJECT)
The role of research in higher education and research assessment
A new project for the CGHE Transition Centre, it will draw together multi-disciplinary scholarship and a strong comparative dimension, internationally and institutionally, in order to study the importance of the research function in understanding the wider dynamics of higher education. To do so, it adopts a multi-layered approach, considering: values and discourses; policy, organisational environments and relationships; evaluation frameworks and funding; and meta-scholarship.
Project leader: Alis Oancea, University of Oxford (alis.oancea@education.ox.ac.uk)

Project 4
Graduate labour market and equity
This project is a continuation of CGHE Project 2.3, ‘The heterogeneity of the graduate labour market in UK and Europe.’ This project seeks to assess how the growing inequality of labour markets outcomes has played out for graduates from across the socio-demographic spectrum in a cross-nationally comparative perspective. It will track trends in graduate outcomes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and its intersection with region, gender, ethnicity and social class.
Project leaders: Golo Henseke, UCL Institute of Education (g.henseke@ucl.ac.uk) and Claire Callender, UCL Institute of Education & Birkbeck

Project 5
Student loan debt and graduate decision-making
This project is a continuation of CGHE Project 2.4, ‘The effects of student loan debt on graduates’ financial and life decisions in the UK and USA.’ The aim of this project is to investigate the effects of student loan indebtedness on graduates’ lives in England. It will look at the longer-term implications of student loan indebtedness on graduates’ life choices, behaviour and wellbeing within the distinctive context of income-contingent loans.
Project leader: Claire Callender, UCL Institute of Education and Birkbeck (claire.callender@ucl.ac.uk)

Project 6
The impact of locality and region on university governance
This project is a continuation of CGHE Project 1.4, ‘The governance of higher education in Europe and the UK.’ This project draws on the research evidence gathered for its predecessor and supplements it with further interviews to study the interactions and relationships between universities and their regions/localities and their implications for questions of governance. The study will be based mainly on the UK but will draw on contrasting approaches to regional/higher education relationships in Ireland, Germany and Norway.
Project leaders: Mike Shattock (m.shattock@ucl.ac.uk) and Simon Marginson, University of Oxford

Project 7
A historical lens on higher education staffing: UK and France
This project is a continuation of CGHE Project 2.1, ‘Higher education participation and macro-economic fluctuations: a historical and comparative study.’ The project will examine trends and patterns in academic staffing in the UK and France since the 1920s. They will be cross-examined with socioeconomic data to establish relations between economic fluctuations, social change and the evolution of the higher education workforce, including the transformation of work and practices within the sector.
Project leader: Vincent Carpentier, UCL Institute of Education (v.carpentier@ucl.ac.uk)

Project 8
Local and global public good of higher education: 10 nation study
This project is a continuation of CGHE Project 1.1, ‘Local and global public good contributions of higher education: a comparative study in six national systems.’ Using interviews with higher education personnel and government officials, supported by discourse analysis, the project compares and contrasts the concepts, understandings and practices of the role of higher education in creating public and common good(s), now in ten countries – Japan, China, South Korea, Finland, France, Poland, UK, Chile, Canada and the United States.
Project leader: Simon Marginson, University of Oxford (simon.marginson@education.ox.ac.uk)

Project 9 (NEW PROJECT)
Mapping supranational higher education space
A new project for the CGHE Transition Centre, this project explores the supranational space in higher education, including the ways in which this space is formed and developed above or beyond nation-states, the actors that form this space, and the resource and knowledge flows within this space, and between the national, regional, and supranational spaces. The project includes the following four strands: European Union post-Brexit; Supranational actors and the regional higher education space in the Caucasus and Central Asia; Research capacity-building in African higher education; and Higher education aid flows to lower-income countries.
Project leaders: Tristan McCowan, UCL Institute of Education (t.mccowan@ucl.ac.uk); Rachel Brooks, University of Surrey; Maia Chankseliani, University of Oxford; David Mills, University of Oxford

Project 10
UK international graduates in mass media and public perceptions: A comparative study of the UK, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan
This project is a continuation of CGHE Project 1.5, ‘UK international graduates from East Asia: careers, earnings, jobs and mobility.’ The research team will expand research scope from the international students’ perspective of their experience and employment to the perspectives of the mass media, employers and the general public. It will ask: How does the mass media shapes the public images of the UK international graduates about their education and employment? How does the general public perceive the UK international graduates especially about their education and employment issues? How do students perceive and evaluate such contrasting trends and contradicting phenomenon?
Project leader: Ka Ho Mok, Lingnan University (kahomok@ln.edu.hk)