Professor Anna Vignoles: Case study

at Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Professor of Education and Director of Research, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

CSaP's Fellowships programmes provide invaluable opportunities to meet senior policy figures in a one-to-one setting, which enables a better exchange of ideas.

For example, I met with Dr Steven Hill (Head of Research Policy, Higher Education Council for England) at a time when we were developing a research programme to investigate aspects of the marketisation of higher education, and issues related to the student experience.

From my discussions with Dr Hill, I gained a far better appreciation of the policy terrain and, in particular, the challenges that HEFCE were facing at that time. Our understanding of the issues was certainly improved by gaining his perspective.

Following a competitive tendering process, we were then commissioned by HEFCE – as part of a wider consortium led by the University of Warwick – to look at how one might properly measure student learning gains in HE, an issue that has increased in importance given the recent Green Paper on higher education which is consulting on such matters.

Champion for Cambridge Big Data Strategic Research Initiative

Cambridge Big Data is an interdisciplinary hub of academics working on issues related to big data, and my particular interest is in the application of big data analyses to answer questions about public policy.

The CSaP Big Data and Policy day, which I chaired, attracted a wonderfully diverse range of different people, academic and non academics alike, working on the intersection of big data analysis and policy research.

In particular, the interdisciplinary nature of the speakers drew in a quite different range of policy stakeholders from my usual networks. This enabled me to follow up with a number of key individuals and invite to events that Cambridge Big Data was organising.

We subsequently had some successful policy oriented sessions to discuss both the power and challenges of using big data in this context. The ideas generated are now being developed into a capacity building grant application to the ESRC.

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