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Title: Governing higher education : research pooling in Scotland
Author: Conn, Ian Brian Edward
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2010
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Research pooling refers to a new form of collaboration between higher education (HE) institutions in Scotland under the auspices of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in which research resources in specific areas are shared, or pooled, across Scotland with the aim of enhancing research competitiveness. This thesis is a study of research pooling as a policy initiative. It suggests that the policy initiative warrants examination because it is a highly innovative policy that introduced new structures, relationships and practices in HE in Scotland. Moreover it did so through a collaborative policy process that appears at odds with the recent highly competitive and selective framing of policy in Europe and the UK. The thesis contrasts research pooling with policy solutions pursued in England and argues that it offers a distinctive approach to developing and sustaining world-class research in the global knowledge society, and (post-RAE 2008) has the characteristics of a successful policy development that attracted widespread support. This prompts a number of questions addressed in the thesis about the development of the policy in Scotland, including the importance of the specific policy context, the significance of the timing of the policy development; and questions about why it developed so quickly. In more general terms, the thesis also considers the significance of the development of research pooling policy for our understanding of the steering of research and higher education in globalising contexts. Thus the thesis is informed by literature on globalisation, particularly that which is attentive to the interaction between the global and local. It also engages with the policy imperatives of building global knowledge societies and economies, and the 'travelling' policies they engender. It considers the significance of embedded factors in the 'local' Scottish context; and how these play out in academic culture and in tension with managerialism. Finally the thesis connects to the theme of governance of research and higher education through consideration of aspects of the operation of policy networks and policy communities. The methodology of the thesis is interpretive and works with the idea of a policy 'narrative' that allows the actors to 'speak' for themselves, constructing a narrative of the process of policy formation as they wish to present it. The methodology assumes that each of the actors represented in the data is mobilising particular resources in order to promote and maintain their individual and collective interests. Thus, the analysis interprets these narratives with attention to the work they do in protecting and maintaining power. Semi-structured interviews with sixteen actors from Scottish Government, SFC, universities and other HE bodies generated data that were then analysed as 'interpretations of interpretations'. The approach illuminates the 'assumptive worlds' of policy-makers, and their emergent networks in the context of post-devolution policy for HE in Scotland. The analysis of the data suggests that research pooling, as a policy initiative, contrasts with much recent policy in HE in the UK, as it works with the grain of academic culture and appeals to ideas of self-determination, autonomy and sovereignty within the academic community. 'Hard' forms of managerialism and governance were rejected in favour of 'soft' governance, drawing people into the policy process, and the policy network was characterised by trust relationships and high levels of personal commitment. This may be seen as a highly developed form of network governance. It also highlights the significance of cultural and political context in the translation of global imperatives into local contexts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available