Date(s) - 15 Apr
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm


This virtual London BUIRA seminar is focused on changes in higher education and their implications for employment relations and we are fortunate to have two expert speakers.

  • Prof Dorothy Bishop (Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford) on REF and TEF: Whose interests do they serve?
  • Dr Olga Kuznetsova (Manchester Metropolitan University) on Employee Relations in Marketising Universities: A case study


The seminar begins with considerations by Dorothy Bishop of the history of how the Research Excellence Framework and Teaching Excellence Frameworks came into being, the rationale for their development and their subsequent evolution into their current forms.

Public accountability and transparency in the allocation of funds was the stated motivation for developing the REF, but it has since taken over other roles, and now is used as a management tool. The stated reason for needing a Teaching Excellence Framework was to force universities to take teaching more seriously, and to provide information for prospective students. In practice, both REF and TEF have had unintended consequences, and in both cases, there are reasons to question the validity of the processes used to allocate rankings.

Dorothy will be followed by Olga Kuznetsova who will speak about her research with Prof Andrei Kuznetsov, published as: ‘And then there were none: what a UCU Archive tells us about employee relations in marketising universities’ in Studies in Higher Education. The study engages evidence from a University and College Union branch archive to explore developments in employee relations (ER) that reflect the organisation-level effects of marketisation of UK universities. The evidence exposes points of strain in ER at a level of professional divide between managers and academics and helps to understand their root. It also reveals new ethical challenges (some of which are connected to the demands and constraints put by REF and TEF) faced by the academic profession and individual academics. Some recent reflections will be drawn on the meaning of ‘distant’ and ‘distance’ in management.

The seminar is an opportunity to air and discuss these issues in an open forum and consider their implications for industrial relations. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.