A Lecture by Sir Brian Smith

I was fortunate yesterday to have the opportunity to attend a lecture by a prominent British figure, Sir Brian Smith. His biography can be found here. The event took place at Marriot Putrajaya organised by AKePT (Akademi Kepimpinan Pengajian Tinggi); the lecture entitled ” Developing Research-Led Universities “.

He emphasized the role of government as follows :

  1. The degree to which research should be concentrated i selected institutions.
  2. The balance between the funding of specific research projects and non-specific support for research infrastructure.
  1. The balance between pure and applied research.
  2. The idenstification of priority areas for research funding.
  3. The level of institutional autonomy.
In UK, Research Assesment exercise is done every five to six years to determine research infrastructure funding. Every university has to send in publications from every staff ( four best from each academic staff) in order to rank the university and get the funding accordingly. Sir Brian talked about curiosity-driven research—“major innovations flow from breakthroughs made my curiosity-driven research. It is no accident that universities which are famous for producing a spin-off companies and for stimulating growth in their local economies are also famous for the fundamental research they do.” He stated her concerns over the ranking tables that every institution is trying to get improved at, that it has become an obssession up to the point that it is no longer reflect the real-life excellence. the dangerous part is to pass over judgement to the journalists. Effective management criteria for universities are focussed on 5 key elements :
  • Devolving responsibilty which is the transfer of authority to academic departments to ensure that all decisions are taken at the “lowest” appropriate level where the expertise resides.
  • Delayering which to minimising the number of levels of administration between the academic members of staff and the central administrative office.
  • Formula funding that allowas flexibility of distribution of resources within departments.
  • selectivity of focus.
  • recruitment of “leaders” —good and quality of academic staff play vital role in research-led universities.
Sir Brian’s final comment — Management cannot by itself produce high quality research. that is a product of that rare and remarkable human quality-original thought.

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