International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 21-23 July 2014
Home > About


Selected papers will be included in a special number of Higher Education Quarterly, to be published in July 2015.

Higher Education Close Up Research Making a Difference

Lancaster University, UK.

21st - 23rd July 2014

About the Conference

Higher Education Close-Up is a peer reviewed biennial international conference, focused on issues relating to in-depth research into higher education. HECU7 takes place at Lancaster University on 21-23 July 2014 and follows on from the very successful HECU6 in Grahamstown, South Africa in July 2012. Higher Education Close Up is a virtual network of the Society For Research into Higher Education. The conference venue this time will be the luxurious Lancaster House Hotel, with accommodation for delegates in the hotel's ensuite rooms.

We are delighted to announce that Professors Nelleke Bak, Roni Bamber, Ray Land and Murray Saunders have agreed to give keynote speeches to the conference.

Conference Theme

The theme for HECU7 is 'Higher Education Close Up Research Making a Difference' . This theme is intended to stimulate papers addressing issues concerning how our research approaches can make a difference in a range of social contexts, and help critique and improve those contexts. We expect papers which see this topic through a range of lenses including through critical theory of different sorts, evaluative research, traditional and less traditional research approaches. We want to look at the ways in which findings are communicated to different audiences so as to engage them and change practices. We will also consider ways in which the difference we make can and should be evaluated.

In the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) which completes in 2014, the 'impact' of research counts for 20% of the assessment (and any funding that follows it).This is demonstrated via impact case studies and an impact statement, developed by the different units of assessment in every university making a return. This figure of 20% is likely to increase in the future as the weighting shifts away from academic outputs to the outcomes of research.

Other countries' systems of evaluation of research are likely to follow this new approach to research assessment and so this 2014 REF will be watched with interest overseas. However for some there are other priorities in terms of making a difference: in South Africa for example the transformation agenda of universities is key in redressing the structured inequalities of that past.

It is easy to criticise both the 'impact' metaphor and many features of the way it has been framed in the REF. But it is much harder to dispute the basic idea that research should make a difference - though this may well be interpreted very differently from the view of quality audit agencies and governments. Meanwhile educational/academic developers are under pressure to show that their work is actually making a difference, enhancing learning and teaching as well as the student experience in universities around the world. Increasingly they turn to evaluative research to help them and others understand what difference they make.

So these are some of the themes the conference will address. Each of the keynote speakers will provide a think piece raising questions about different aspects of this theme. Preferably, conference participants should submit proposals for papers that in some way respond to these issues or expand on them so that an interactive conversation can develop before, during and, we hope, after the conference.

The Call for Proposals outlines this process in more detail

Discussion List

The Higher Education Close Up discussion list is at: http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/HIGHER-EDUCATION-CLOSE-UP.html. Please join this list for conference announcements and to participate in ongoing discussions of in-depth higher education research.


Publications from the conference

As with previous conferences we will publish a number of papers selected on the basis of: a) academic quality and b) their contribution to making a coherent collection, taken together. This year we have been lucky enough to secure agreement for a special number of Higher Education Quarterly dedicated to a thematically-organized selection of papers from the conference. This will appear in July 2015 and will comprise around seven or eight selected papers. HEQ is one of the journals of the Society for Research into Higher Education, and HECU is a virtual network of that organization.

Authors of selected papers will be contacted as soon as possible and we will require final versions for peer review by the end of September 2014. The Guidelines for authors should be read carefully.

The publications from HECUs 2, 3, 4 and 5 were:

HECU 2 Prichard, C. and Trowler, P. (2003) (eds.) Realising Qualitative Research in Higher Education. Aldershot: Ashgate.

HECU 3 Trowler, P. (ed.) (2008) A Socio-Cultural Approach to Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education: A Special Issue. International Journal of Educational Research, 47, 3.   

HECU 4 Shay, S., Ashwin, P., and Case, J. (eds.) (2009) A Critical Engagement with Research into Higher Education: A Special Issue. Studies in Higher Education, 34, 4. 

HECU 5 Ashwin, P. and Case, J. (eds.) (2012) Special Issue QUESTIONING THEORY-METHOD RELATIONS IN HIGHER EDUCATION RESEARCH Higher Education Research and Development 31, 3.



There will be live music (and dancing!) at the conference

The Tuesday Conference Dinner will feature:

Howard Haigh & The Men of The Hour featuring Ben Ruth (Convulsions) with Rick Middleton (Uke Bass/Voice/Guitar), Sam King Middleton (Drums/voice/guitar) & Jave (Bass/Voice/Guitar)

and the opportunity to visit local highlights including:

  • Guided pub crawl around Lancaster's rich live music scene, including The Robert Gillow; The John O'Gaunt; The Penny Bank and several others (depending on who's playing where that day....)


Details on registration will follow. In the meantime details of submitting proposals and  the criteria for assessment are available by clicking 'Call for Papers' above. Deadlines are also available on that page. Please contact us if, for funding purposes, you need to submit an early proposal for a decision about acceptance.


The conference is being organised by Professor Paul Trowler at Lancaster and a committee comprising previous conference organizers. The conference adminstrator is Alice Jesmont. HECU7 will be brought to you through here@lancaster the Higher Education Research and Evaluation Centre.



Keynote Speakers:

Professor Veronica Bamber, Queen Margaret University

Professor Ray Land, Durham University

Professor Murray Saunders, Lancaster University

Dr Nelleke Bak, University of Cape Town

Find out more»


| About HECU7 | Conference Programme | Conference Papers | Registration | Call for Papers |Keynote Presenters |Previous Conference Papers | Contact |
SRHE Department of Educational Research Lancaster University