Knowledge Exchange Framework advances following positive feedback

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Research England’s second iteration of new and enhanced KEF dashboards, passes another major milestone as it builds on positive feedback on the first version.

Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) is already regarded positively in higher education, improving the status of knowledge exchange, driving strategic and evolved approaches, and helping to improve data. It is also generally regarded as a sound approach, with new features introduced today.

These new features provide even better public information on the rich and diverse ways English universities continue to engage with society and our economy, locally, nationally, and internationally.

KEF2 uses updated data and an evolved methodology to examine the performance of English higher education providers (HEPs) from a variety of different perspectives.

New features for KEF2 further demonstrate that regardless of the type of activity that a university may specialise or excel in, this is reflected in their final results.

KEF2 provides a more accurate picture of how universities perform across the sector while preserving the considered and tested model developed alongside the sector.

The new dashboards are available on the KEF’s interactive website.

Delivering economic and social impact

Building on the successes of the first iteration of the KEF, KEF2 continues to demonstrate the range of valuable activities universities conduct with external partners across seven perspectives. These perspectives include:

  • public and community engagement
  • working with partners ranging from big businesses to small local firms
  • how they commercialise home-grown research.

It also demonstrates the diversity of universities that support the government’s key national and global priorities through these activities.

The KEF is recognised by the government as ‘valuable to capture contributions to economic growth, such as place and civic contributions’ and plays an important part in driving forward these agendas.

David Sweeney CBE, Executive Chair of Research England, said:

Knowledge exchange is integral to the mission and purpose of our universities, and its importance in contributing to societal and economic prosperity is strongly supported by the government.

Today’s new version of the KEF takes further forward the vision and potential of KE activity, providing richer evidence to demonstrate universities’ strengths in different areas when set alongside their peers.

Growing partnerships

This technical evolution of the first iteration of KEF dashboards includes:

  • an evolved methodology
  • updates to the current metrics
  • enhanced presentation of the results.

These changes were designed following a deep-dive review of the first iteration with the sector to further improve the robustness of the results. KEF1 dashboards were published in March 2021.

For the first time, KEF2 includes university activity conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It takes into account the KEF’s underlying data and insights from the UCI Policy Evidence Unit at the University of Cambridge. And its results highlight the remarkable resilience of the English higher education sector during a period of disruption and instability.

In particular, activity levels have been maintained across a breadth of KE in order to support the UK’s economic and societal recovery from the pandemic.

In KEF2, encouraging signs of growing success are emerging particularly in the perspectives for intellectual property and commercialisation and research partnerships.

Demonstrating value

The core principles underpinning KEF2 however remain largely unchanged, drawing on the successes of the first iteration as a novel framework in KE.

Significantly, the KEF compares institutions on a like-for-like basis, with similar institutions being grouped together with their peers in ‘KE clusters’.

This is a fair and balanced approach that avoids making unhelpful comparisons between incomparable institutions.

Clustering has been instrumental in demonstrating the value of universities of all sizes and specialisms and their contributions to the UK economy.

KEF results are determined by taking data covering a wide range of a university’s activities and using this to form a series of metrics.

These then go into seven perspectives, and updated for the second iteration, a university receives a quintile score for each perspective displayed in relation to the average for its cluster.

The KEF website continues to show the detailed, qualitative information submitted by HEPs for the first iteration about how they build community engagement and promote growth in their local areas.

For more information about the KEF, including about clusters, perspectives and metrics, please take a look at the technical notes on the KEF website.

Technical notes

The majority of the data that form the metrics of the KEF continues to comes from the long-standing HESA Higher Education Business and Community Interaction survey, supported by:

  • narratives provided by the institutions for the first iteration that inform the local growth and regeneration, and public and community engagement perspectives
  • data provided by Innovate UK
  • data provided by Elsevier.

All institutions in receipt of a Research England Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) allocation in 2021 to 2022 are included in the exercise.

Some institutions who were eligible for HEIF but did not meet the threshold for an allocation have still elected to participate in the KEF. The clusters are not ranked, and the KEF is not a league table.

Research England will continue to develop future iterations of the KEF annually. The KEF is not currently used to inform funding.

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