International Migrants Day

By Richard Black|December 18, 2016|Research|13 comments

Today (December 18th) is International Migrants Day – celebrated in honour of the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in 1990. It’s an odd day, and an odd convention. But we should make more of it, if we can, because the issue of international migration has never been more salient, or understanding of an important issue

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What questions are worth asking?

By Richard Black|September 8, 2016|Research|97 comments

Universities are all about asking (and answering!) the world’s most burning questions – it is core to what our staff, our students, and our academic programmes should be doing. For many, the most important questions for universities to ask are seeminly obvious. They should have value for society, for example asking how we can reduce suffering, cure diseases, or invent new materials or build machines that are lighter, faster, smarter.

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Innovation in higher education: the next 10 years

By Richard Black|August 3, 2016|Research|0 comments

It was an honour this week to be asked to speak at the 12th World Islamic Economic Forum, held in Jakarta Indonesia. The theme of the forum was ‘Decentralising Growth, Empowering Future Business’, and certainly empowering future leaders has been the business of higher education for many years. I was asked in particular to focus on the topic of innovation in the higher education sector, and there could not be

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The humanities in a tech-rich world

By Richard Black|May 27, 2016|Research|0 comments

I’ve been running a small experiment in recent weeks amongst friends and colleagues, simply by asking them what they think of a controversial article in the Washington Post by Elizabeth Dwoskin.  The article talks of how poets and playwrights are increasingly working in Silicon Valley’s tech firms to help make machine bots more ‘human’.  The idea is to give personal assistants like Microsoft’s ‘Cortana’ and Apple’s ‘Siri’ back stories and teach

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The Nurse review of UK research councils: where next?

By Richard Black|May 4, 2016|Research|1 comments

In December last year, the UK government published the long-awaited Nurse review entitled “Ensuring a Successful UK Research Endeavour”.  The review, written by eminent scientist Sir Paul Nurse, was tasked with looking at the UK’s Research Councils, which have the responsibility of funding ‘demand-led’ research in Britain across seven broad discipline areas.  It had high level input from government and from the scientific community.  So what does it say, and

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Europe’s refugee / migrant crisis

By Richard Black|September 7, 2015|Research|21 comments

It is too early to say if September 2015 was a turning point in western Europe’s attitude towards migrants and refugees, but the tragic and very public death of Aylan Kurdi has certainly had a powerful effect on both public and political opinion.  It should also have a galvanizing effect on those of us who have researched refugee and migration issues for many years – the voice of the academy

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The changing face and place of HEIs: implications for student engagement

By Richard Black|July 2, 2015|Research|2 comments

There has been much talk of diversification of the higher education sector in recent years. The outcome of the market was expected to be one in which institutions specialized in what they are good at in order to attract students. Talk of the ‘squeezed middle’ for example highlighted the problems for institutions trapped between ‘research excellence’ at one end of the market, and ‘teaching excellence’ at the other. In this

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Managing academic performance

By Richard Black|June 15, 2015|Research|15 comments

A recent and fascinating piece in the THE by Rob Briner sets out how he feels universities are ‘mismanaging performance’. This week – and the preceding 18 months for that matter – academic performance has been very much on my mind. SOAS Academic Board has just approved a new ‘academic performance framework, the development of which I have led through a string of working groups and extensive negotiation with UCU Of

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Research in the ‘digital age’

By Richard Black|March 7, 2015|Research|15 comments

Last week my past as a scholar of refugee studies caught up with me. I was contacted by Professor Barbara Harrell-Bond – the expert on refugee studies, Emeritus Professor at Oxford, and former Distinguished Visiting Professor at the American University at Cairo and Makerere University, who inspired me as a student – and many others – to study refugees and forced migration. Back in the 1990s, I agreed to put

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