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Knowledge with Impact in Higher Education Research

Theory and Method in Higher Education Research

ISBN: 978-1-80043-321-2, eISBN: 978-1-80043-320-5

ISSN: 2056-3752

Publication date: 9 November 2020


Responding to the knowledge needs of stakeholders has been a defining feature of higher education research. However important responsiveness is, it does not automatically assume beneficial change of policy or practice as a result. When research generates impact beyond the academy, little is known about its epistemic, organisational and temporal characteristics and their links. Are these knowledge characteristics a typical reflection of the field or do they have a certain specificity that may account for their reach into the wider spheres of policy and practice and society at large? In this chapter, we look at the knowledge characteristics of higher education research that was submitted for the ‘impact’ element of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) – the United Kingdom's national level assessment of research. We identified 53 impact case studies within a broadly defined and multidisciplinary field of higher education research. We investigate the theories and methodologies used, the researchers and institutions that conducted the research, its sponsors and the timescales of the various research projects. In the United Kingdom, the REF includes assessment of nonacademic impact. The latter has emerged as a key criterion and a metric for evaluating and funding academic research. We contribute a sociological conceptualisation of the knowledge characteristics and their links as an ‘epistemic-organisational-temporal nexus’ at which actors' interests intersect. This conceptual framework advances our understanding of the investigated multidisciplinary research field, with relevance to applied social sciences generally.



Papatsiba, V. and Cohen, E. (2020), "Knowledge with Impact in Higher Education Research", Huisman, J. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Theory and Method in Higher Education Research (Theory and Method in Higher Education Research, Vol. 6), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 203-224.



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