Monday, January 05, 2015


WAY TO GO!  DUE soon to have more time for his grandchildren, Steven Jefferys can bow out with pride in his department's work.
ALMOST two years ago we were supporting staff at the London Metropolitan University who were resisting what looked like politically-motivated victimisation.  More recently I was reporting on the row about the same university's employment of a former undercover police agent whose nefarious activities had been exposed. 

So now, catching up belatedly on some correspondence that reached me just as I was packing to get away for a break at Christmas, it is good to get into the New Year with some good news. It seems that far from "bringing the university into disrepute",  a charge which might sometimes have been levelled at LMU's bosses in the past, the team at the Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI), led by Steve Jefferys, have been judged  winners by peers in the Research Excellence Framework(REF) which assesses such work.

Here are the messages that tell the story:

Dear Friend,

In February and March 2013 you were one of 2,500 academics and trade unionists and friends who signed the letter to the then Vice Chancellor of London Metropolitan University demanding I and two Working Lives Research Institute administrative colleagues be reinstated from suspension.  This happened soon afterwards, thanks we are sure to your pressure, although I and the UNISON trade union representative subsequently both had to serve out ‘final warnings’.
I’m writing now to inform you of some really great follow-up news.
Your support in 2013 enabled me to put the WLRI academic record as well as our personal commitment to social justice before our peers in the REF November 2013. Their judgement is a tremendous accolade.
Thank you for that support. Without it we would not have been able to report this great achievement.
All the best for 2015

Research Excellence Framework gives WLRI 2008-2013 4-star billing

The LondonMet's Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI) REF result (announced on December 18) was amazing!

We put our collective academic outputs, my descriptions of our research impact and our research environment over the last six years and two excellent impact case studies before a panel of judges in the academic discipline of Area Studies. This includes American Studies, Middle East Studies, European Studies etc.

Our news is that we found out on December 18 2014 that we have been ranked 4th out of the 23 UK universities who do research in this very broad field.

Our 2014 overall UoA 27 rating was higher than Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, SOAS and Edinburgh universities to name a few, while those universities scoring above us were only the LSE, Birmingham and Exeter.

Not only that, but out of all the 36 Units of Assessment (UoA) covering research carried out by all UK universities, we were the highest ‘new’ post-1992 university ranking group of researchers except for the three vocational UoAs (Dance, Art and Design, and Sport). 

The WLRI team I led comprised 9 social justice researchers of whom three had recently come to us from another excellent Research Institute, ISET (the Institute for the Study of European Transformations). Two other excellent LondonMet Social Science and Humanities faculty colleagues were also in the submission, giving a total of 11 who were entered. Nearly all our research has been on European working lives and the University finance department reported we had raised £4.4m in external research income over the 6 years. There was another £1.5m income that was not included.

Our result was significantly better than six years earlier. In the 2008 RAE the 17 staff who were entered in the European Studies Unit of Assessment (UoA) that then existed were ranked joint 10th out of 27 universities.

Since then, despite misplaced attacks on research and on the WLRI directly, with my being suspended in early 2013 and being given a final warning, and then our being targeted for extra redundancies, we got this stunning result.

Outputs are the most important aspect of a REF submission. Ours were judged to be above the national average for Area Studies. A staggering 69% of our publications were rated 3* (internationally recognised) or 4* (world class) compared to a 63.3% average for Area Studies. 21% of our publications were judged to be world-class (4*).

Our Impact rating was even better: 70% of our Impact was judged to be world class (4*), and 30% having international recognition (3*). We were topped only by LSE and Exeter.
Our Research Environment rating was equal with Oxford and Cambridge (50% of it was judged to be world class), and we were exceeded on this measure only by UCL, Birmingham and LSE.

I am proud to have begun our Impact statement by writing that LondonMet's
'socially accountable and redistributive ethos is reflected in the university’s long history of addressing the needs and realities of the less privileged strata of British society. Thus social justice remains a key driver of our Area Studies research into migration, inclusion and exclusion, and representation processes – particularly in relation to changing forms of work in different European communities...

'Our approach to non-academic users, beneficiaries and audiences over the whole period 2008-2013 has been rooted in the philosophy of user-engagement and giving voice to those who are rarely heard. Our experience is that this approach maximises the ownership of impact by those involved in the research process.'

This highly positive competitive external audit of the WLRI's work between 2008 and 2013 comes out of our collective work.

But it is also a real personal high for me. I was a founder of the WLRI in 2002, with Mary Davis, Chris Coates and Fiona Colgan, and have been its Director ever since, and this great result falls just before my retirement and my move to Emeritus Professor status on February 14 2015.

Way to go!

We also commented in this blog on the way Warwick University authorities had been treating staff and students.  So here was one of the first comments on Steve Jeffreys' news from Dennis Leech at Warwick:

Excellent news. 

You may be interested to know that the department at Warwick that got the highest REF ranking (the only department ranked first nationally overall and by outputs) was English and Comparative Literary Studies, whose head of research responsible for preparing the REF submission etc  (and also immediate past head of department) was Thomas Docherty - before he was suspended and subjected to the most severe disciplinary process lasting in all over ten months being completely exonerated.

Best wishes



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