ACU Insights #2 - October 2012

In this issue…

Defining, understanding and measuring impact

A lack of consensus around what 'impact' means makes it difficult for universities to respond. It finds parallels with a push for 'research uptake' in the development sector, and with a focus on results, impact and value for money. Metrics, however good the data, only reflect what they aim to record. Nevetherless, grappling with impact - despite legitimate concerns with how this is incorporated into funding frameworks - could offer universities some opportunities. 

Graduate futures

Recent work on graduate futures suggest two current trends: the potential of long-term tracer studies and growing interest in early (particularly academic) careers. Some analyses specifically seek to show the benefits of university study beyond the standard indicators of immediate employment prospects, 'first destinations', or graduate premiums. As the value of detailed research on graduate careers becomes apparent for a university's strategy as well as its alumni networks, so the characteristic six month post-graduation survey seems insufficient. 

Leading by example

While HE leadership is often equated with management skills or administrative knowledge, it is increasingly being discussed in terms of values, environments and opportunities. Several recent projects have explored how it is coming to be defined and practically developed through publications and training programmes. The focus on leadership reflects wider demands on HE - greater accountability in governance, reduced funding, increasing competitiveness and staff retention. Yet it is often the local conditions and contexts which determine what leaders can do and how effective they can be. 

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The authors Nick Mulhern and Jonathan Harle are always pleased to receive feedback on the usefulness and content of the ACU Insights briefing, as well as news on developments in HE which might be of wider interest. They can be contacted at