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UK scholars under pressure

A survey of 1,700 UK scholars reveals that the majority of academics fear the effects of funding pressures and targets on their research activities. The study was carried out by the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information at the Open University. According to the survey, 78 per cent of academics stated that the pressure to raise funds has increased over the years and three quarters agreed that “high expectations to increase research productivity are a threat to the quality of research.” Furthermore, only a third believed that their institution supports academic freedom.

The researchers believed the findings to be the direct result of the Government policy of increasingly linking research results with economic outcomes. This “marketisation” of higher education pushes scholars towards choosing subjects that would be more relevant in terms of business or prestige. The new results culture affects the overall working conditions as well: less than half of the respondents claimed that their job satisfaction was high or very high.

The survey is a part of an international ongoing study, The Changing Academic Profession, led by the International Centre for Higher Education Research Kassel, which will include data on more than 20 countries. The project will examine the nature and extent of the changes experienced by the academic profession in different countries in recent years. It will explore both the reasons for and the consequences of these changes.

CHERI at the Open University