REF pilot launched as brakes come off for enterprise

Mock REF

We are currently in the fourth round of consultations about REF2021. Imagine having four Brexit referendums, six months apart, with 20 questions each. You would have a very nuanced democratic process, but the consensus decision would be very complicated. That’s where we are with REF2021.

The census deadline for REF2021 is end 2020. I want to give the Schools two years to make adjustments: 2018/19 and 2019/20. How do we go about this? Hire more Early Career researchers? Decide who goes on sabbatical? Target a more prestigious journal or publisher? Get more PhD students to co-author with their supervisors? Develop a new impact case? That is why we are running a pilot REF now. I will draw conclusions early 2018, and communicate these to Schools so they can optimise their plans for the next two academic years.

My back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me the mock REF will cost about £250k of internal staff time, plus £80k for external assessors. The internal staff time is a ball-park figure, but I would like to thank all staff for their efforts in cooperating with the pilot REF. It’s essential for the University to make informed decisions.


The VC, Director of Kent Innovation and Enterprise and I met with a delegation of SELEP, Chris Brodie and Adam Bryan and the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, Jo James.

SELEP, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership is the business-led, public/private body established to drive economic growth across East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock. It is one of 39 partnerships set up by the government to set strategic economic priorities while making investments and delivering activities to drive growth and create local jobs. We visited the School of Biosciences and the Aspire suite at the Kent Business School. If you don’t know what the Aspire suite is, please arrange a visit!

The South East is not that well defined as the Midlands and the North East of England. Do you include Essex? Southampton? Oxford? London? One thing is sure, Kent is part of it. The South East is wealthy, so should the government invest in it? I think that England not investing in the South East would be like Europe not investing in Germany.

Economic engagement is important. A University is not just a producer of graduates, or of research papers. We want our graduates and our research output to have an impact in the world. If you look at the word cloud of REF2014 impact cases below, you see words like ‘public’ and ‘policy’ looming large. We are academics, and like to tell the public how things are, and what to do. But notice the word ‘work’. We are also creators of employment, via our student and staff entrepreneurs, via the advice we give business. Economic engagement is important.

From The nature, scale and beneficiaries of research impact, King’s College London and Digital Science, March 2015

Pop Quiz: Get to know your County, and its enterprises! Which company, with UK headquarters in Kent, produces products that touch nearly 1 in 4 people globally every day? (Kimberly-Clark). Brakes, a catering company headquartered in Ashford, has a £3bn annual turnover. As at March 2016 there were 58,940 enterprises in Kent. The majority of enterprises (89.5%) are micro enterprises (with 0-9 employees).

Professor Philippe De Wilde, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation