NCCPE publishes draft response to the KEF consultation

The NCCPE has today published a draft response to the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) consultation. We’d be really pleased to hear your feedback on our suggestions, and for you to draw on our response if you think it is useful. The consultation closes on 14th March.

What should we make of the KEF? Many are worried about it (see for instance this thoughtful blog by Mark Reed), but the NCCPE believes it could have a positive role in encouraging good practice in the sector if it is developed carefully. We’ve been looking closely at the consultation document and wanted to share our current thinking.

So, briefly, a summary of some of the proposals, and our reactions to these:

  • Public and Community Engagement is included as one of seven equally weighted ‘perspectives’ – effectively, categories of knowledge exchange activity. We are pleased to see the contribution of public engagement recognised in this way, and that it’s weighted equally.
  • A clustering of HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) is proposed, with eight clusters presented to allow meaningful comparisons to be drawn between HEIs of very different sizes and missions. This seems really sensible.
  • The KEF is intended to be a light touch mechanism compared with the REF. It is not currently linked to funding, and there is no formal review process proposed. Instead, it will capture and present a small number of metrics drawn from existing data (in particular, from the HE Business and Community Interaction Survey, HEBCI-s). These will be visualised by metric driven dashboards. You can see these mocked up here. The jury is out on whether people will find these useful and meaningful. A pilot of the KEF is planned which will help to answer this, with the results published in the summer of this year.
  • The audience for the KEF is meant to be both the HE sector (as, largely, a self-improvement mechanism) and external organisations wanting to collaborate with universities. We are concerned by how little consultation has been done so far with such organisations to test whether the questions the KEF seeks to answer and the data it plans to present is actually useful and meaningful to them.
  • While five of the perspectives will be described purely by metrics (for instance, the amount of contract research income per academic), two of the perspectives are felt to be too difficult to represent using metrics alone. These are Public and Community Engagement and Local Growth and Regeneration. For both of these a mix of a single metric and a short (unassessed) narrative statement are proposed.

In the NCCPE’s draft response we make some specific suggestions for how the metric and narrative for these two perspectives might be framed:

  • We do not recommend proceeding with the proposed metric for Public and Community Engagement, which is taken from the HEBCI survey: the number of hours per academic dedicated to offering the public access to events and performances, and to museums at the HEI. We don’t think this adequately captures the breadth of engagement activity or the strategic intent that we would want to see foregrounded.
  • We are concerned that the narrative accounts won’t be assessed and will present rather high level and superficial signals of intent, and will lack specificity.

We propose a different approach. We agree that there aren’t existing data that could be harvested to create a robust metric. Instead, we suggest that the narrative account be framed as an institutional self-assessment report. This would provide evidence and links to support the institution’s judgement of its current performance against a set of indicators. They would rank themselves between 1 (not in place) and 4 (fully realised) for each indicator, and link to evidence to support their assessment. The average score across these indicators would generate the reported metric.

The proposed categories and an exemplar indicator for each are:

  • Providing community access to your facilities and expertise
    • We have taken every effort to enable the public to access and make use of our sporting, cultural and other facilities and assets, and to signpost these opportunities.
  • Involving communities in your research and teaching
    • We seek to actively involve the public in our research and knowledge exchange activities, and provide expert support to facilitate this.
  • Commitment to partnership working and social responsibility
    • Our procurement and employment practices seek to maximise benefits for our local communities.
  • Working to the highest professional standards
    • There is a strategic and operational plan in place for Public and Community Engagement.

These are based on a range of existing tools and frameworks, including the NCCPE’s own EDGE tool. We have proposed a similar approach for the Local Growth perspective as well.

We would really value your feedback on our draft response. We have created three separate documents which you might find useful:

  1. A summary of our response: this document distils what we are saying about the Public Engagement perspective. This will be useful if you want to look in detail at just this aspect of the KEF.
  2. Our draft response: our full response to all aspects of the KEF consultation.
  3. A briefing pack about the KEF: as mentioned above, we think it is vital that external organisations feed in their views, as the KEF is intended to be a useful tool for them. We hoped you might be able to help with this. We have prepared this briefing pack to translate the consultation document for a non HE audience, and to provide some prompts for a discussion about it. If you can, please do try to find time to discuss this with a partner to see how they respond to the proposals, and then feed their views back to us and into your own institution’s response.

As ever, time is tight – the consultation closes on 14th March. Please do share any comments or partner feedback with us via nccpe.enquiries@uwe.ac.uk by close of play on Friday 8th March.

We look forward to hearing from you. 

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