Guest post series by Ed Kaneen on his experiences at the Workshop for Aspiring Academics:

The academic landscape was explained by Shearer West, Director of Research at the AHRC and Sean McLoughlin, Head of the Department of TRS at Leeds. Both emphasised the importance of research to British universities, and particularly the Research Excellence Framework (REF) forthcoming in 2014. I hadn’t realised that approximately 75% of a university’s research funding is dependent on this assessment of scholarly output, which explains the importance paid to it. Given this is the case, one of the questions candidates may expect at interview is which is of their publications are ‘REFable’, and what level would they attain (1* to 4*=world class). Inevitably, a discussion about ‘impact’ ensued, noting that 20% of a ‘unit’s’ (i.e. department’s) score would depend on the ‘economic and social benefits’ of the research. It is not yet clear how this will work in practice, but, as one working in biblical studies, I was pleased to hear that it was thought that impact on ‘the church’ should count. Post-docs were considered a ‘good thing’, although scarce, as they allow time to establish a research reputation, but with the new £9k undergraduate fees coming in, it is thought that teaching quality may have a higher profile in the future.

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