Why External Partnerships are Important to Universities

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This article will explore why increasing pressure is put on academics to engage in projects that encourage external partnerships and how to maximise your career prospects by engaging in them.


Universities are increasingly relying on external sources to fund their staff member’s research activities. Where once institutional support would have been forthcoming for research trips and larger scale projects, now many of these are funded by research councils. However, partnerships with other bodies can also be lucrative both for the individual researcher and for the university concerned.

In the fields of science and social science these collaborations are fairly common but the arts and humanities are only now starting to catch up. These collaborations can be with private research organisations, publically funded bodies such as museums of government departments or councils, or with other universities and departments. This article will focus on the first two types of collaboration.

An example of such a collaboration in each field would be:

Science – New Optical image project involving collaboration between three UK universities and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire

Social Science- Projects with public health implications involving collaboration between university-based researchers and the NHS.

Humanities – Historians and Art Historians working with a local museum or gallery to put on an exhibition.

If you currently looking for work you will find advertisements for these sorts of projects on jobs.ac.uk. Usually the contract is only short term ( a few months or years). Current academics might become involved by suggesting the collaborations or working alongside colleagues to bring projects to fruition. Being involved in this sort of project benefits your CV and the department for which you work.

Collaborative doctoral awards

In the Arts and Humanities, the AHRC has recently commenced a programme of Collaborative Doctoral Awards (known as CASE studentships) designed to promote collaboration between university departments and non-academic institutions. They share the cost of funding a PhD studentship, benefiting the student because both partners bring different skills to the studentship, and also benefiting the academic institution because long lasting links can be forged.

See this website for more details: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/FundingOpportunities/Pages/CollaborativeDoctoralAwards.aspx

KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnerships)

KTP schemes are designed to allow academics to collaborate with innovative businesses to share knowledge. Each partnership runs for a maximum of three years. The benefit to academics is that it enhances their research profile and provides research data and ideas. For the company or organisation involved in the partnership it means that a highly skilled researcher will be devoted to solving a particular business problem or issue.

See this website for more details


External partnerships, public engagement and ‘impact’

These schemes and collaborations are related to the drive in Higher Education towards increasing engagement with public audiences outside the institutions and assessing the wider ‘impact’ of the research undertaken. If you are going for a job interview in a UK university you need to know that these issues are of current importance so think about how you personally can demonstrate that you can raise the profile of the university in these areas.

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