The Centre for Global Higher Education gets to work

Thursday this week sees the start of the funding period of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), based at the UCL Institute of Education. 

CGHE has been established by ESRC to work on the future of higher education in the UK and beyond. Its ESRC funding is 50 per cent sourced from HEFCE and it will be billed the ‘ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education’. Together with funding support from the UK partner universities it has total resources of £6 million spread across fourteen projects, mostly of 3-4 years duration.

This is a tremendous opportunity to advance thinking about higher education and to build on-going UK social science research capacity in this field, deepening both long-term national policy reflexivity and global awareness and impact. CGHE (pronounced see-gee) is conducting three broad research programmes, based on global, national and local perspectives on higher education.

The new centre, which will be the largest unit in the world devoted to research on higher education, will provide opportunities for six or more full-time postdoctoral researchers, draw in existing social science researchers to work on higher education problems, and mount a lively programme of seminars, national/international conferences and research impact-related events in London and at centres across the country. 

The UK partners are the UCL Institute of Education, Lancaster University and the University of Sheffield. CGHE has eight international partners in China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Netherlands, Ireland and the United States. The partner investigators include Professors Nian C. Liu, founder of the Shanghai global university ranking; Robert Tijssen, who developed the Leiden University research ranking;  Bruce Chapman of Australian National University, who designed the first income-contingent system of tuition loans, and Ellen Hazelkorn of Dublin Institute of Technology.  

The 14 CGHE projects include a mix of research on immediate policy related issues (e.g. the effects of loans financing on graduate financial choices, industry-university researcher links, new higher education providers and their relations with established HEIs, career outcomes for international student graduates, the cost effectiveness of MOOCs) and longer term and fundamental issues (e.g. a six-country study of the role of higher education in furthering the public good, a cross-country comparison of student learning in STEM, the future relationship between educational financing and participation, the post-2012 UK system and social access, the future academic profession). 

Since funding was announced last March, the CGHE research team has developed a partnership-based programme in South Africa focused on research capacity building in relation to student participation and completion. Further projects will be established. 

The CGHE website and social media platform, which are still in development, between them are expected to function as a portal for worldwide access to information about UK higher education; a launching pad for the dissemination of UK thinking about universities, education and research; and the framework for much conversation about higher education, policy and practice. 

Close engagement with stakeholders and policy makers has been built into the centre’s work from day one—CGHE has enrolled Universities UK, NUS, the HEA and another 20 national higher education bodies (including Wonkhe) as Associate Organisations. Research projects will be managed by a team of three, including a representative from one of the Associated Organisations, or HEFCE and BIS. Stakeholders will share the design of impact indicators and the first-cut interpretation of data, as well as the dissemination of results.  

CGHE is directed by Simon Marginson, Professor of International Higher Education at UCL Institute of Education, Joint Editor-in-Chief of the journal Higher Education and the 2014 Clark Kerr Lecturer on Higher Education at University of California Berkeley. Deputy directors are Professor Claire Callender of Birkbeck and IOE, and William Locke who heads the IOE’s MBA program in Higher Education Management. 

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