Project 3

Research on Research: the research function and mission of higher education

This strand of research drew 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.

About this project

The CGHE Research on Research project was led by Professor Alis Oancea and involved a core team from Oxford (Dr James Robson, Dr Xin Xu, Dr Jessica Pilgrim-Brown and Antonin Charret) and Bristol (Dr Gemma Derrick). It adopted a multi-layered approach to understanding research ecosystems in six countries and regions and internationally, considering values and discourses; organisational environments and relationships; evaluation and assessment frameworks; policy and funding; individual careers and perspectives; and meta-scholarship. The team conducted a comparative study of the weight given to research in academic life and evaluations, in relation to: individual careers, organisational environments, teaching and learning, sectoral policy, and relationships with other sectors, including publishing and industry. This was complemented by a comparative international review of assessment systems for higher education-based research, considering critically their role in framing arguments about the public contributions and value of research in higher education.

The team conducted global research stakeholder interviews (n=72), and case studies in 12 higher education institutions in six countries and across 27 units spanning the spectrum of disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields, including multilingual interviews with professional and academic staff at different career stages and with unit and institutional leadership (n=98), supported by bibliometric analysis. These were complemented by analytic insights from a corpus of current and historical policy documents (n=308) mapping research assessment in Australia, Italy, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

The study has generated a global comparative analysis framework for research on research and a suite of survey modules for further research on research on different scales.

You are welcome to sign up to the project newsletter here.


University of Oxford
Alis is Professor of Philosophy of Education and Research Policy at the University of Oxford and Project Lead (Research on Research) at the ESRC Centre for Global Higher Education, as well as Social Sciences Division Advocate for Impact (Responsible Engagement and Innovation). In recent years, she was Director of Research in the Oxford University Department of Education and REF2021 coordinator for the unit. Through scholarly and professional collaborations, she hopes to champion knowledge, justice, generosity and integrity in research practices and discourses, research policy and research leadership and cultures in different types of organisation. She has led and collaborated on research projects, change and development initiatives, and administrative processes on impact and knowledge exchange, and held advisory and leadership roles in education reform and research assessment. She has conducted research on research ecosystems, values in research, open knowledge, impact, ethics and integrity, epistemic diversity, research careers, understandings of quality and excellence, research assessment, research in teacher education, philosophy of research, and principled research practice. Alis is the joint editor of the Oxford Review of Education, chief editorial advisor on Routledge Open Research (Education), and co-editor of the forthcoming ‘Handbook of Meta-Research’ (Elgar). Alis Oancea led CGHE Project 3, ‘Research on Research: the research function and mission of higher education’.
The University of Bristol

Gemma Derrick is Associate Professor (Research Policy & Culture) at The University of Bristol and a CGHE Co-Investigator on CGHE Project 3, ‘Research on Research: the research function and mission of higher education’.

University of Oxford
James Robson is Co-Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Skills, Knowledge, and Organisational Performance (SKOPE), Associate Professor of Tertiary Education Systems, and leads Oxford’s MSc in HE. He was a CGHE co-investigator on Project 3, ‘Research on Research: the research function and mission of higher education’.
University of Oxford
Xin Xu (许心) is a Departmental Lecturer in Higher/Tertiary Education at the University of Oxford. Her research concentrates on higher/tertiary education and research.
University of Oxford
Antonin Charret is a Research Assistant on Project 3 for the Centre for Global Higher Education and a Doctoral Teaching Fellow at the Department of Education, University of Oxford.
University of Bristol and University of Oxford
Dr Jess Pilgrim-Brown is a sociologist and researcher in education. She focuses on issues relating to social class, gender and wider social inequalities.
Research Assistants
Lingxuan Chen
University of Oxford

Lingxuan Chen is a Clarendon Scholar and is currently studying for a DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford. Her thesis focuses on the endogenisation of China’s social science research and the underpinning power dynamics. Her doctoral research is fully funded by the Clarendon Fund Scholarship. Lingxuan worked as a Research Assistant on the Centre for Global Higher Education ‘Research on Research’ project. She has a strong interest in China’s social science research, global epistemic justice, international relations and politics, and knowledge-power nexus.

Dr Soyoung Lee
University of Oxford

Dr Soyoung Lee was a research assistant on Project 3 and a member of Global Higher Education research group. She holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford and a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge. Soyoung’s research interests involve international students, student agency and student self-formation in higher education.

McQueen Sum
University of Oxford

McQueen Sum is currently reading for a DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford. She is supervised by Professor Alis Oancea and Dr Victoria Elliott. McQueen is a member of the Centre for Global Higher Education interested in higher education, teaching, teachers’ work, and technology. Her research interests are influenced by her prior experiences of working as an academic tutor at the University of Hong Kong and a researcher for Khan Academy and HarvardX (edX).

Szilvi Watson
University of Oxford

Szilvi Watson is a final-year DPhil student at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education. She was a doctoral research assistant in the Centre for Global Higher Education on the Research on Research and the Responsible KEEI projects. Her doctoral research pertains to the experiences of religious postgraduate students at universities in England. Previously Szilvi was senior project manager of a world-wide science and religion project at Oxford University’s Materials Department. She is a qualified teacher with extensive experience in varied educational settings and has an interest in higher education research.

Benjamin Hart
University of Oxford

Benjamin Hart was a research assistant on Project 3 while also a doctoral student in the Department of Education conducting research in the field of English Higher Education. His research focusses on evaluation within a widening participation setting and his interests lie primarily in the field of higher education and the philosophy of education. Following his B.A., and MSc in Sociology, Benjamin completed his MSc Education (Research Design and Methodology) at the University of Oxford. Prior to his Doctoral studies, Benjamin worked in Evaluation at the University of Oxford.

Other Team Members
Dr Maria Rucsandra Stan

Dr Maria Rucsandra Stan is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Università degli Studi Milano-Bicocca, Italy. In 2022 she was a visiting doctoral researcher on CGHE Project 3, ‘Research on Research: the research function and mission of higher education’ under the supervision of Professor Alis Oancea. Rucsandra was also part of a PRIN project (Carlo Cattaneo University local unit), on “The effects of evaluation on academic research: knowledge production and methodological issues’”. Her doctoral research focused on the effects of the evaluation system on knowledge production and researchers in academia and research institutions.

Dr Hoonhui Cho
Ministry of Education in the Republic of Korea

Dr Hoonhui Cho was a visiting researcher in the ESRD/RE Centre for Global Higher Education at the University of Oxford in 2023, and is a senior official of the Ministry of Education in the Republic of Korea. He has been working as an educational policy practitioner since 2004 in the South Korean government. In the meantime, Hoonhui finished his doctoral thesis on the Korean state and its approaches to policy making in higher education at the University of Oxford in 2014. His research interests includes higher education governance and policy, research assessment and comparative higher education.

Bruno Mallett
Former intern

Bruno Mallett worked as an intern on this project in May 2022. Bruno is an emerging educational researcher who is developing specialisms in higher education, global educational governance and education philosophy. He is currently working on a research project which investigates the ways in which numeracy and literacy requirements are assessed on initial teacher training programs in England following reforms to the prior QTS Professional Skills Tests model in 2019.

Advisory Board

Professor Ka Ho Mok
Lingnan University/Hang Seng University (Hong Kong)
Professor Joshua Mok Ka-ho is, until the end of May 2024, the Vice-President and concurrently Lam Man Tsan Chair Professor of Comparative Policy of Lingnan University. He is also a Deputy Director of CGHE. Before joining Lingnan, he was the Vice President (Research and Development) and Chair Professor of Comparative Policy of The Education University of Hong Kong, and the Associate Dean and Professor of Social Policy, Faculty of Social Sciences of The University of Hong Kong. Prior to this, Professor Mok was appointed as the Founding Chair Professor in East Asian Studies and established the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. Ka Ho Mok led CGHE Project 10, ‘UK international graduates in mass media and public perceptions: A comparative study of the UK, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan’.
Dr Siri Brorstad Borlaug
Nordic institute for studies in innovation, research and education NIFU

Dr Siri Brorstad Borlaug is a senior researcher at NIFU (Nordic institute for studies in innovation, research and education). She studies the effects of funding and governance in research policy and research institutions on researchers and research. Her interests also include the role of societal stakeholders in research and how researchers engage in society.

Professor Jonathan Boston
Victoria University of Wellington

Jonathan Boston, ONZM, is Professor of Public Policy in the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW). His research interests include climate change, child poverty, governance, public management, research funding, and welfare state design. He has served at various times as Director of the Institute of Policy Studies and Director of the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at VUW. In the early 2000’s he was a member of the Tertiary Education Advisory Committee and helped design and implement the Performance-Based Research Fund in New Zealand’s tertiary education sector.

Dr Elizabeth Gadd
University of Glasgow and Loughborough University

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Gadd is Head of Research Operations at the University of Glasgow and a Research Policy Manager at Loughborough University. She chairs the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS) Research Evaluation Group, the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) Research Evaluation Special Interest Group and the LIS-Bibliometrics Forum. She founded The Bibliomagician Blog which provides bibliometric advice and guidance ‘by practitioners, for practitioners’. Elizabeth was the recipient of the 2020 INORMS Award for Excellence in Research Management Leadership.

Dr Steven Hill
Research England

Steven Hill is Director of Research at Research England. Steven was formerly Head of Research Policy at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and leads on all aspects of research policy and funding. Steven is responsible for research funding, including quality-related funding (QR), general capital funding and the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF). He also leads Research England’s research assessment and policy work, and is the chair of the steering group for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Dr Phyllis Kalele
Academy of Science of South Africa

As a research and programme management professional, Dr. Phyllis Kalele heads the African Collaboration sub-programme at the Academy of Science of South Africa. She directs strategic academy projects in Africa with the aim of bolstering science diplomacy, promoting the use of evidence-based science in policy making and increasing the visibility of African scientists. Dr. Kalele also leads gender in science initiatives at the academy and from 2019 to 2020 she was the Africa Regional Focal Point Coordinator for Gender in Science, Innovation, Technology and Engineering (GenderInSITE), a global, multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder initiative to promote the role of women in SITE. She holds a BSc. in Botany and Zoology, a MSc. in Environmental Sciences and a PhD. in Science and Technology Studies.

Professor Vincent Larivière
Université de Montréal

Vincent Larivière holds the Canada Research Chair on the Transformations of Scholarly Communication at the Université de Montréal, where he is professor of information science and associate vice-president (planning and communications). He is also scientific director of the Érudit journal platform, associate scientific director of the Observatoire des sciences et des technologies (OST) and regular member of the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST). His research focuses on science policy, scholarly publishing, and diversity and equity in science.

Professor Cameron Neylon
Curtin University

Cameron Neylon is Professor of Research Communication at the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University where he is co-lead on the Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative. He is interested in how to make the internet more effective as a tool for scholarship. He writes and speaks regularly on scholarly communication, the design of web based tools for research, and the need for policy and cultural change within and around the research community.

Associate Professor Heidi Prozesky
Stellenbosch University

Heidi Prozesky is an associate professor at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology, located at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Science and Technology Studies and a master’s degree in social science methods. As a sociologist of science, Heidi employs both quantitative and qualitative strategies to investigate her main research interests, namely women in science and early-career researchers in (South) Africa, in particular their research productivity.

Professor Emanuela Reale
Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth IRCRES CNR

Emanuela Reale is Director of the Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth IRCRES CNR. Her main areas of interest are higher education policy, governance, R&D funding, STI indicators, research evaluation and impact assessment -with a special focus on SSH research. Currently she is PI in the RISIS project Research Infrastructure for science and innovation studies, and coordinator of the PRIN project on effects of evaluation on universities research. She is Member of the Board of the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers CHER, of the European Network of Indicator designer ENID, and President of the European Forum for Research and Innovation-EU-SPRI.

Professor Leandro Rodriguez Medina
Universidad de las Americas Puebla

Leandro Rodriguez Medina (PhD Cambridge) is Professor at the Department of International Relations and Political Science, Universidad de las Americas Puebla (Mexico). He is a member of the National System of Researchers (Level 2) at the Mexican Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) and founding Editor-in-Chief of Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society. He has held visiting positions at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (Mexico), Albert Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (Germany) and Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III and Université Descartes-Paris V (France). His research interests are Latin American STS, international circulation of academic knowledge, social aspects of diseases (zika and covid-19), and the relationship between culture and city in Mexico. Recent publications include Migrants, parasites et exploitation minière: coproduction de problèmes publics et de connaissances scientifiques dans la périphérie (2021, Revue d’anthropologie des connaissances), Cultural practices and rough sociality in Mexico’s midsize cities: Tijuana, Puebla and Monterrey (2021, Urban Studies), De la posverdad al populismo epistémico: una visión CTS (2021, Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales), Personal bonds in the internationalization of the social sciences: a view from the periphery (2021, International Sociology), Who’s Afraid of Ebola? Epidemic Fires and Locative Fears in the Information Age (2020, Social Studies of Science), and International Ties at Peripheral Sites: Co-producing Social Processes and Scientific Knowledge in Latin America (2019, Science as Culture), among others.


  • Oancea, A., Derrick, G., Xu, X. & Nuseibeh, N. (Eds.) (Contracted; Forthcoming). Handbook of Meta-Research. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Oancea, A., Derrick, G., Robson, J., Xu, X. (forthcoming). The role of research in higher education and research assessment: An international comparative study. Research Poster. STI2022.

Other relevant publications


  • Punch, K. & Oancea, A. (2022) 《教育研究方法导论》 Introduction to Research Methods in Education. Chinese Edition. SAGE.
  • Fancourt, N., Foreman-Peck, L. and Oancea, A. (2022) Addressing ethical quandaries in practitioner research: A philosophical and exploratory study of responsible improvisation through hermeneutical conversation. Teaching and Teacher Education, 116.
  • Xu, X., Braun Střelcová, A., Marini, G., Huang, F. and Cai, Y. (2022). International academics in mainland China: what do we know and what do we need to know? European Journal of Higher Education.
  • Yang, L, Marginson, S, and Xu, X. (2022). 以“天下”思天下:“天下”思想对全球高等教育的新启发 (Thinking through tianxia: a new/old heuristic for worldwide higher education), 《清华大学教育研究》 (Tsinghua Journal of Education). 43(2) 1-13.
  • Marginson, S. & Xu, X. (forthcoming). Hegemony and inequality in global science: problems of the center-periphery model”, Comparative Education Review.


  • Oancea, A., Fancourt, N., Robson, J., Thompson, I., Childs, A., & Nuseibeh, N. (2021). Research capacity-building in teacher education, Oxford Review of Education, 47:1, 98-119, DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2020.1842184
  • Xu, X., Oancea, A. & Rose, H. (2021). The impacts of incentives for international publications on research cultures in Chinese humanities and social sciences. Minerva: a review of science, learning and policy.
  • Gemma Derrick and her Research Phoenix team including Alessandra Zimmerman and Richard Klavans from Proposal Analytics, and The Wellcome Trust published their project report “Building a formative peer review system for ECR applicants at The Wellcome Trust” in December 2021.
  • Xu, X. (2021). A policy trajectory analysis of the internationalisation of Chinese humanities and social sciences research (1978–2020). International Journal of Educational Development.



Project sessions

Invited talks and conference presentations

  • Oancea, A., Derrick, G., Robson, J. and Xu, X. (September 2022, accepted) The role of research in higher education and research assessment: an international comparative study. British Educational Research Association conference, Manchester.
  • Oancea, A., Derrick, G., Robson, J., and Xu, X. (September 2022, accepted). ‘The role of research in higher education and research assessment: An international comparative study.’ Research Poster. International Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (STI2022). Granada.
  • Oancea, A. (2022) Understanding (the) good (of) research in higher education in times of change and challenge. Keynote to ‘Changing Landscapes in European Higher Education. 5th International Conference (Communication and Education in Knowledge Societies)’. European University Alliances & West University, Timisoara.
  • Oancea, A. (2022) Research-impact nexuses and thinking beyond the framework. Invited contribution to ‘Rethinking Policy Impact’, Royal Society of Edinburgh.
  • Oancea, A. (14 June 2022) ‘Higher education and research ecosystems around the world’, invited seminar to Department of Organization Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Relevant CGHE events


  • Robson, J. (April 2022) put together a CGHE four-part webinar series on ‘The Critical Economics of Higher Education’ designed to problematise current economic approaches to HE and discuss alternative economic frameworks.