Building research capacity: changing roles of universities and academics

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Postprint of: Li, B, Millwater, J & Hudson, PB 2008, 'Building research capacity: changing roles of universities and academics', in Australian Association of Research in Education (AARE) Conference 2008, Brisbane, Qld., 30 November - 4 December, Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE).

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A nation's overall capacity depends considerably on its research. Universities, as centres of knowledge production and generation, play a critical role in the national research. This paper provides a discussion of universities’ roles in building national research capacity, government quality assurance initiatives to enhance university research, institutional measures to build research capacity, and the impact of these expectations on academics. Many universities have changed their brief to include research and the production of knowledge as key to their institutional directions. As a result, university research has become highly competitive in a nation’s capacity to deliver knowledge in the world market. Given the prominent role it plays in the overall national research efforts, university research is an indicator of performance and educational growth. In the last two decades, the desire to hold higher education accountable and the need to receive value for money have sparked government efforts to evaluate the research performance of their universities and academics in many countries. The results of these evaluations form the basis of the resource allocation decision of government funding bodies. Changes like these pose great challenges to higher education institutions and academics, particularly the role research plays in assessing their performances. Government funding, and international ranking and status drive higher education institutions to strive for research excellence. Institutional pursuit of a strong research capacity has led to managerial efforts to encourage and support research. Incentive systems have also been established to reward research. Research capacity enhancement measures have had considerable impact on academics. Academics are expected to conduct research and produce research publications. More research is required to understand the changing roles of academics and their work habits that may lead to building research capacity.