In Phase 1 the 12 universities will be selected using a modified version of the four vertically differentiated categories of UK higher education institutions (HEIs) identified by Boliver (2015).
Boliver uses cluster analysis establish distinctive university groupings based on research quantity and quality, student satisfaction with teaching, endowment and investment income, spending on academic services per student, student-staff ratios, academic and social selectivity of student intake, and outcomes for degree holders using four different measures.
Oxford and Cambridge occupy the first tier, most older universities are in the second tier and other public universities fall in tiers 3-4. In this project one university will be drawn from tier 1 and at least two universities from tiers 2-4.
Boliver’s stratified groupings are used because of the potential for differential effects (e.g. in revenues and financial sustainability) in Brexit-related changes, for example a two-tier visa policy. In addition, there will be universities from all four nations given potentials for national variation in the implications of Brexit; variation in tiers 2-4 in the extent of European engagement; and one private provider with a significant international student body. All universities will cover health, technology, social science to facilitate comparison.
The semi-structured interviews in Phase 2 will include the academic leader (e.g. vice-chancellor), chair of governing body, executive leaders in research and international, chief financial officer, head of human resources, executive deans in three disciplines (health, technology, social science), about three research professors from these disciplines, and student union. Three months after completion of interviews, selected interviewees will be sent an email questionnaire designed to track possible changes since the interviews, in the volatile setting.
Data collation and analysis
Phase 4 work begins during Phase 2. The 120-140 interviews will be transcribed and hand-coded, and analysed using content categories, finalised in Phase I that will be derived from Stensaker et al (2014) on ‘Factors affecting strategic change in higher education’ and supplemented by others including Clark (1983), Marginson and Considine (2000), Shattock (2010), Deiaco et al (2012), Fumasoli et al (2015), Thoenig and Paradeise (2016).