Dr Elizabeth M Morrow
Research Series 5.2, April 2016
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The impact agenda is moving at pace through higher education. Impact is increasingly central to universities’ research strategies. Whilst the term ‘impact’ is bandied about and we think we know what it means, there is little consensus in the sector about how impact is achieved, what kind of organisational conditions support and nurture it, or what success looks like.
Impact is a priority for higher education research but there are very few anchors or compasses to orientate university leaders and the research community towards it. To find direction through this complex territory, the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education has commissioned this study of impact case studies from leadership, governance and management (LGM) research submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment. The REF impact case study database provides, for the first time, a landmark resource for learning about research impact.
This study set out to gain a conceptual handle on LGM research impact in terms of the processes and mechanisms involved. In particular, we were interested in mapping out how LGM research in these case studies led to change, made a difference or had impact. The results will help universities think through issues of impact: what the rationale is for understanding impact, why impact is important, and how it can be shown and maximised in its different contexts. The report provides practical advice for the academic community about finding routes to impact. In particular, the Adaptive Systems Framework for Advancing Research (AS-FAR) will be useful for researchers in their impact planning and reporting. It can contribute to the development of pathways to impact.
The Leadership Foundation envisages that this research report will add value to the important work universities are doing to position, plan and develop institutional capacity for impact. It will also help inform activities across the higher education sector to enhance the impact of LGM research in the future. Alongside this full report by Dr Elizabeth Morrow,there is a summary report available and we commissioned a separate report by Professor Sue Dopson and colleagues which reviews available literature on the impact of leadership development interventions in UK higher education and their effectiveness. We hope that these reports will be read and used together as they "stake out the ground" and illuminate what we mean by impact from multiple perspectives. Each is frank about the challenges of measurement and offers a conceptual model of the routes to impact from research as well as questions for future research.
Professor Fiona Ross CBE
Director of Research
Leadership Foundation for Higher Education
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