Centre for Global Higher Education 2020-2023

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Education


Higher education, which includes universities and some colleges, is a large, growing, dynamic and internationalised sector that is strongly connected to communities across the UK and around the world. In the last five years the world tertiary enrolment rate has risen from 33 to 40 per cent of the school leaver age cohort. Half of all young people in the UK now enter higher education. New knowledge in the form of published research is doubling every 12 years. Knowledge is increasingly important for economies and societies, especially in the form of fast changing technologies at work and in daily life, in cultural products like books and films, and in the development of students for work and living. Knowledge shapes and changes us. It adds to our understanding, brings us closer to others and expands what we can do.

The ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) conducts research on global, national and local aspects of higher education. CGHE is a partnership of six UK universities (Oxford, the UCL Institute of Education, Lancaster, Sheffield, Bath and Durham) and nine international universities on five continents. It brings together an active network of 30 university researchers. CGHE is the UK's first international centre in higher education research. Its work is published in books and academic papers, and in short briefs for policy makers and the public. Its research is often discussed in the media and on social media.

Research on higher education draws on several social science disciplines, especially economics, sociology and psychology. It ranges across teaching and learning, delivery technologies, data analytics, research and its evaluation, governance and management, social participation, graduate employment, the contribution of universities to regions, international students, development education and more. CGHE was established because it was recognised that (a) at the base of practical problems of teaching and learning, policy and management there are long term issues open to research and (b) deeper understanding of the changing global context of higher education and research ias essential to the sector in the UK.

CGHE's fundamental mission is to use research to find ways and means of making higher education institutions more effective, more efficient, more economically useful and more socially inclusive. CGHE is also an important source of information about trends in higher education, and examples of good practice.

In the Centre Transition phase of its work in 2020-2023, CGHE moves from a primary emphasis on new investigations and data gathering to (1) the completion of scientific outputs, (2) communicating the outcomes of its research to policy makers, higher education practitioners and the public, and (3) securing the maximum impact of the research in the form of improvements to higher education provision and additions to higher education policy.

Planned Impact

1. Who will benefit from this research?

The primary beneficiaries and users of research on higher education, aside from researchers themselves, are government departments, agencies and bodies charged with inquiry and review, primarily in the UK (though with some demand from the English-speaking world, Europe and East Asia); committees of the parliament; companies working on higher education, for example in international education; general media and sector-specialist media inside and outside the UK; national and international organisations in the field of higher education; and higher education institutions themselves, especially executive leaders and the professionals working with them.

In relation to government departments, agencies, bodies charged with inquiry/review, and the parliament, CGHE researchers have built extensive links by being 'on call' and providing data, analyses and briefings as requested.

CGHE has formally affiliated members of national education organisations through its structure of Associate Organisations. These include Universities UK, and also its International unit, Higher Education Policy Institute, Advance HE, University and College Union, WonkHE, Society for Research into Higher Education, National Centre for Universities and Business, National Union of Students, and UK Council of International Student Advisors. Most CGHE project teams include representatives from an Associate Organisation, who provide critical feedback, e.g. on data analysis and draft findings papers. They are invited to seminars, chair conference sessions and give conference speeches. Over half the CGHE Advisory Board is from Associate Organisations plus key stakeholders including Research England, the Office for Students and ESRC. In the Transition phase the relationships become still more important, e.g. shared public events for dissemination purposes.

In relation to media, the CGHE communications strategy (facilitated by a full-time communications officer) is to maximise both academic and public audiences for the research. CGHE has created 66 discrete publications. When publications are issued, they are accompanied by extensive media promotion. CGHE has produced 93 blogs from researchers and generated 173 news stories on the CGHE website. CGHE has a 128-strong distribution list of global higher education journalists who receive updates. CGHE's research and a researchers have appeared in 373 press stories across the world. The CGHE Twitter feed has posted 3,711 tweets and followers have passed the 4,300 mark.

In the Transition Centre phase, which emphasises dissemination, policy and impact, relations with policy makers/government, Associate Organisations and media will be even more important. The CGHE communications strategy will focus especially on the production of shorter briefing materials.

2. How will they benefit from this research?

Policy makers and regulators in government benefit by being better informed about higher education in general, and particular issues. CGHE's briefing role has been most significant in relation to economic and sociological research e.g. on graduate employment (especially), tuition loans systems and their parameters, part-time study, student loans. Those issues affect large numbers of people and are also at the forefront of public discussion. There is also ongoing demand for briefings on the global higher education environment, as in a recent CGHE presentation to the Scoping Committee of the Office for Students. Journalists also benefit from the same information.

CGHE's expert information on economic and social aspects of higher education, and on policy issues in relation to teaching and learning such as the Teaching Excellence Framework in the UK, is called upon frequently by committees of the parliament, policy reviews such as Augar 2019, the DfE and BEIS. CGHE's economic experts on tuition loans systems have advised governments in seven countries since 2015.


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