UK Study Tour 2019

ARMS/PraxisAuril: 2019 UK Knowledge Exchange Study Tour

Report - Tara McLaren

In early June, the ARMS/PraxisAuril Knowledge Exchange (KE) Tour kicked off in London with representatives across 12 Australian Universities, as well as the University of Otago and the Telethon Kids Institute – and what a fabulous group of engaged and thoughtful colleagues they were.

The Tour was led by Dr Mark Hochman, ARMS Business Consultant who ensured that the group stayed focused and that our hosts provided relevant and diverse information around Impact, Knowledge Exchange and the Concordat for the Advancement of Knowledge Exchange in Higher Education in England which has been recently released for consultation.  The group was also supported by the wonderful Grace Mulraney whose amazing logistical support meant that the participants could concentrate on engaging and not worrying about travel or accommodation or meals!

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Left and above: Delegates at the University of the Arts, London


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Above: most of the tour group


I last visited the UK in 2015, shortly after the REF2014 exercise was completed and visited several universities to find out more about how they were responding to the impact agenda.  The theme of my trip was largely around exploring what systems, process and personnel universities had implemented to support impact activities and reporting.  One of my interesting reflections on this trip was how much the sector had matured in relation to having open and positive conversations around knowledge exchange activities and capturing examples of research impact.

The focus of the tour was to gain a better understanding of the soon-to-be implemented Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). The KEF metrics exercise aims to provide timely data that describes and compares institutional-level performance in knowledge exchange. Importantly, the KEF will exploit existing data which is already being collected by Research England to provide low burden insights to support KE improvements in higher education institution. One of the key design principles of the Framework is to enable a fair comparison of institutions across a diverse sector. Statistical clusters of institutions, based on the underlying assets and capabilities that drive their potential KE performance, have been determined to allow institutions to benchmark themselves against similar institutions. It appears that the knowledge exchange conversation in the UK is now focused on trajectory measures - “are we on the right trajectory for creating economic wealth/health service improvements?”

A further intention of the KEF is to allow industry to compare the performance of institutions, although across the universities we visited, there was scepticism regarding whether industry would in fact use the KEF for this purpose.  A comment from one of the institutions we visited in relation to the usefulness of the KEF for industry was “hmmmmmmmm” which I think sums it up nicely.

 A further topic of conversation was the release for consultation of the draft Concordat for the Advancement of Knowledge Exchange in Higher Education in England.  The Knowledge Exchange Concordat “sets out aims and enablers to help universities make informed decisions and develop their own informed strategies around KE” and has been developed in parallel to the KEF pilot consultation. The KE Concordat will allow institutions to explain what they do, how they do it and what steps they are taking to get better at knowledge exchange in order to demonstrate the fulfilment of their civic and societal roles to a broad range of stakeholders.


At a very high level, there are a number of similarities in the Knowledge Exchange and impact measures implemented by Research England and the Australian Research council. A brief comparison between the UK Ref and KEF assessment and the Australian EIA requirements is summarised below:  


Knowledge Exchange (UK)/
Engagement (AUS)

Research Impact

Institutional Strategy (UK)/
Approach to impact (AUS)


KEF: knowledge exchange metrics using income as a proxy and narratives

REF: research impact case studies are currently assessed as part of the REF submission with a weighted number of submissions depending on the size of the unit of assessment

KE Concordat: institutions will be required to publish their KE Action Plans which will be subject to both self-assessment and assessment by an independent panel


Engagement and Impact Assessment: engagement metrics using income as a proxy and narratives

Engagement and Impact Assessment: a single research impact case study is submitted per unit of assessment. Research impact is assessed and rated with an ‘impact’ score with only highly-rated impact scores are made public.

Engagement and Impact Assessment: an institution is required to articulate it’s ‘approach to impact’ as a part of each impact case study.  Institutional strategies and support are assessed and ranked as an ‘approach to impact’ score. This section of a case study submission has not been made public in the first assessment round.


Whilst there are several similarities between the UK and the Australian impact agendas, there are also a few key differences. The most significant difference being the fact that UK institutions receive funding based on impact performance as well as funding for engagement and knowledge exchange activities. As such, there is a growing professional cohort of impact managers and knowledge exchange brokers who are supporting the strategy, education and reporting requirements of UK institutions.   


One of my reflections of the tour is that all of the universities we visited are responding to the impact and knowledge exchange agenda in different ways: from implementing new reward and recognition programs; changing academic position descriptions to include an engagement and translation stream; to driving behaviours through internal budget allocation; and universities who are consciously and deliberately “are not embarking on the ‘KEF Industry’”.  

Further to this, an increasing range of organisations that support the UK higher education sector are developing a number of online tools and services to support impact.  For example, Emerald Publishing has developed an Impact Literacy Workbook as well as an Institutional Impact Health Workbook and Grow Kudos will be releasing Kudos Pro which supports researchers to “engage broad audiences and increase the impact potential of your research through better communications” next month.

In Australia, there is no current specific government funding allocation for either performance, or to support related knowledge exchange activities. Although the Australian impact and engagement assessment is less onerous on the sector compared to the UK, this assessment still places pressure on institutions to accurately report on these outcomes. Subsequently, additional pressure is placed on researchers as they are increasingly expected to respond to all of the parts of the research ecosystem - from the design and delivery of research, to leading engagement and translation activities often with no increased funding or performance recognition.

Interestingly, the HE sector in the UK is much more actively engaged in conversations both cross-institutionally and with the government on the subject of KE and Impact than is currently happening in Australia.  This is perhaps a key area where ARMS, and its members, can increase collaboration and knowledge exchange in partnership with research management professionals in the UK through ARMA!

I can see lots of opportunities for the HE sector in the UK and Australia to work collaboratively around developing systems and processes for supporting, capturing, reporting and assessing KE and impact activities and outcomes in a global context. And so, I return to my workplace with renewed enthusiasm for my profession and for the opportunities we have as Research Administrators to help researchers conduct (and translate/or communicate) research that has the potential to make real-world impacts.


ARMS/PraxisAuril: 2019 UK Knowledge Exchange Study Tour

Report - Jodieann Dawe

As Australian Universities are determining how to prepare for another round of ARC Engagement and Impact, it was timely that ARMS in conjunction with PraxisAuril convened a Knowledge Exchange Tour of the UK.  The Tour was designed to specifically support understanding of the UK models of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the soon to be implemented Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and how both these frameworks were being applied to drive and sustain as well as measure industry engagement with academic institutions and the enduser impact of research.


I was fortunate to have the support from the DVCR Flinders University to attend this unique and valuable study tour and be provided with the opportunity to not only learn about the UK systems and frameworks but to also form deeper professional relationships with colleagues from across the Australian research landscape.


Our tour started in the heart of London. To introduce the key administrative frameworks and contextualise the breadth of information that we would be provided as we visited different Universities across the UK, our first port of call was with Research England. This Government organisation has oversight and responsibility for funding and engaging with English HE. This includes: providing grant funding to English universities for research and knowledge exchange activities; developing and implementing the Research Excellence Framework in partnership with the UK Higher Education funding bodies; overseeing the sustainability of the Higher Education research base in England; managing the £900 million UK Research Partnership Investment Fund; and administering the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF). Link


Research England is also a key element of UK Research Innovation which brings to together 7 Research Councils from across the UK, Innovate UK as well as Research England, to support the UK in world leading research and innovation. At the recent ARMS/SRAI Hawaii Conference I had the good fortune to hear  Research England, Executive Chair, David Sweeney as the keynote presenter and I highly recommend having a read of his presentation powerpoint.


Now armed with our vernacular expanded with new acronyms and terms (KEF, the Concordat, REF, QR (Quality Research) Funding, GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund), UKRPI (UK Research Partnership Investment Fund), HEIF (The Higher Education Innovation Fund), HE-BCI (Higher Education Business & Community Interaction) survey, RED (Research England Development) Fund, etc…) our journey began in earnest. Onto the magical mystery tour bus and across England avisiting we went.


To provide a snapshot of the English research and reporting landscape and to facilitate a greater appreciation of the diversity of approaches that are being employed to manage the data collection, analysis and reporting requirements for REF and KEF, the ARMS/ PraxisAuril Knowledge Exchange took in visits to a wide range of Universities across England. These included University of College London, University of Arts London, University of Cambridge, Coventry University, Keele University, Nottingham University, University of Lincoln, and York University. Not only did this provide an indepth look and understanding of the differences being applied in the English Higher Education sector but the Tour participants had the opportunity to swap experiences and war stories about their own Universities preparation for ERA and E&I both in the 2018 round and the upcoming round, and from our colleague across the Tasman to learn about how NZ managed reporting.


On a more personal note, I found this study tour an exceptional experience for many reasons. But two key highlights were the professional relationships that I was able to form with both with UK and Australian contemporaries as well as the ability to learn more about the diversity of the Australian and UK approaches in supporting quality research knowledge exchange; strategies to have higher and more productive engagement with industry through research partnerships; and the pathways for research to have a positive impact on a myriad of endusers including community. My thanks to Grace and Mark for a well organised and productive tour – it made an amazing difference to my learning experience.



The study tour was an excellent opportunity to see how the last 15 years or so of significant investment from the UK government into building capacity and capability in knowledge exchange has changed practice and policy in the sector. The Australian sector has an opportunity to learn from this more integrated approach to research and knowledge exchange and at UTS we have already started to think about how we might develop an integrated knowledge exchange strategy. The tour was extremely well organised with a great mix of universities, and the hosts universities were very generous with their time, information and sandwiches!  Martin Lloyd (UTS)


The ARMS/PraxisAuril UK study tour was a wonderful opportunity to understand how UK Universities are positioning themselves to meet the teaching and research needs of our changing world, and the challenges and opportunities of various measurement systems (e.g. TEF, REF an KEF) in articulating what they do well and where they can improve. The University staff we met were friendly, generous with their time, and open about the challenges faced by the higher education sector.  Our tour group was collegial, good fun and keen to share their own knowledge and experience in different aspects of research strategy, management, measurement, and support.  Finally, the programme had a balanced schedule of visits to provide a range of University perspectives.  It was also extremely well organised with delegates able to focus on the tour content and networking.   Thank-you Mark and Grace, ARMS and 2019 ARMS Study Tour delegates.  Rachel Elliot (University of Otago)


The ARMS/Praxis Auril 2019 Study Tour provided a comprehensive lens on the development of assessment processes across the UK higher education sector, generating a depth of knowledge of assessment frameworks existing (REF) and emerging (KEF). The diverse study group enabled the learning to not only happen in the formal visits but in the bus and across social opportunities. The tour was well organised and curated by the ARMS team, ensuring we were able to experience a range of different higher education environments. A study tour I would highly recommend.” Isabel McNeil (Monash University)


The ARMS/PraxisAuril 2019 UK Study Tour was a wonderful opportunity to gain an understanding of their new Knowledge Exchange Framework.  The program was excellent and I personally found the experience enriching and enlightening!  The information gathered will be extremely valuable as we progress our preparations and strategies around supporting and reporting research engagement and impact.” Michelle Duryea (Edith Cowan University)


It was fantastic to see strong collaboration across the HE sector in the UK in the way they are working together to respond to the incoming KEF and Knowledge Exchange concordat from a policy angle.  What was interesting was that operationally, there was great diversity in how individual institutions were positioning themselves to address the reporting requirements”. Otherwise “apart from the content learning aspect of the Tour, one of the highlights for me was being able to share institutional approaches to supporting impact and engagement with Australian and NZ colleagues. I now have a new network of colleagues I feel I could call on when tackling strategic or operational matters relating to engagement and impact.”  Tara McLaren (Telethon Kids Institute)