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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Research Advisory Group

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Research Advisory Group is a key part of the QAA Research S​trategy (PDF 32KB) ​and its membership includes eminent representatives of the higher education research community and senior QAA staff, whose profiles are available below.​

The main purpose of the group is to provide an external perspective to QAA's research initiatives and to promote an interface with higher education research centres in universities.

The aims of the Research Advisory Group are:

  • to advise on the implementa​tion of the QAA research strategy
  • to advise on the development of a capacity for applied research in higher education​
  • to discuss possible topics for QAA research activity and sponsorship
  • to promote awareness of QAA's role in higher education research.



Professor Nicholas Barr

Professor of Public Economics, London School of Economics

​​​​Nicholas Barr is Professor of Public Economics at the London School of Economics and the author of numerous books and articles including The Economics of the Welfare State (OUP, 5th edn, 2012), Reforming Pensions: Principles and Policy Choices (with Peter Diamond) (OUP, 2008) and Financing Higher Education: Answers from the UK (with Iain Crawford) (Routledge 2005).

Alongside his academic work he has wide-ranging involvement in policy, including two spells at the World Bank and as a Visiting Scholar at the Fiscal Affairs Department at the International Monetary Fund.

He has also been active in policy debates, particularly on pension reform and higher education finance, advising governments in the post-communist countries, and in the UK, Australia, Chile, China, Hungary, New Zealand and South Africa. He is a Trustee of HelpAge International and a member of Council of the Pensions Policy Institute.

​​​A range of academic and policy writing can be found on the LSE website (opens in new window)​

Emeritus Professor John Brennan

Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Research, Open University and Visiting Professor, University of Bath and London Metropolitan University

John Brennan is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Research at the Open University and a Visiting Professor at the University of Bath and London Metropolitan University. His interests lie broadly in the area of higher education and social change.

For nearly 20 years, he directed the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information at the Open University where he led and participated in many national and international projects on topics such as graduate employment, quality assurance, the academic profession, and universities and social transformation.

He is an academic auditor for the University Grants Committee in Hong Kong, for several years served on the Scientific Evaluation Board of the University of Vienna, and has worked with the Association of Commonwealth Universities on their academic benchmarking programme. Before joining the Open University in 1992, he had been Director of Quality Support at the Council for National Academic Awards and held academic posts at Lancaster University and Teesside Polytechnic.

Professor Claire Callender

Professor of Higher Education Policy, Birkbeck University of London

Claire Callender (BSc,PhD) is Professor of Higher Education Policy at Birkbeck University of London and Professor of Higher Education Studies at the Institute of Education, University of London.

Her research and writing has focused on student finances in higher education and issues related to the topic. She has been commissioned to undertake research ​or the most significant committees of inquiries into student funding in the UK, and gave evidence at the public hearings of the most recent inquiry - the 2010 Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance headed up by Lord Browne. Claire has also given evidence to various House of Commons Education Select Committees.

Claire was awarded a Fulbright New Century Scholarship for 2007-08 and spent time at the Harvard Graduate School of Education conducting comparative work on student funding in Britain and the USA. She is currently conducting research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, on parents' access to higher education, and is about to start another ESRC funded study on undergraduate students' attitudes to debt.

Alexander Griffiths

Alex Griffiths is a postgraduate research student at King’s College London where he is carrying out a three-year collaborative PhD studentship​ co-funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC), King's College and QAA. 

His PhD looks into risk-based approaches to quality assurance in higher education and aims to provide the first major empirically-based analysis of how risk-based approaches to quality assurance might operate in a UK higher education environment. It will examine how far available data can provide relevant indicators of an institution’s risk of quality assurance failures, and evaluate how such indicators might be incorporated into a cost-effective risk-based quality regime. The work builds on Alex’s academic background in mathematics and risk analysis and his years of work at the Care Quality Commission developing risk assessment tools in health and social care.

Professor Anna Jones

Professor of Education, Glasgow Caledonian University

Anna Jones is Professor of Education at the Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University and a Visiting Scholar at King’s Collage London. Her research has focused on the nexus between higher education policy and practice and she has conducted research projects examining the leadership of teaching in higher education, graduate attributes, the role of the university in 21st century Britain. She is currently engaged in research on the use of simulation in medical education to change outcomes for students in areas of high deprivation in London and the use of arts-based techniques to enhance care and compassion amongst clinicians. Before taking up the post in Glasgow, Anna worked at King’s College London and at the University of Melbourne.​

Professor Roger King​

Roger King's current affiliations are: Visiting Professor, School of Management, University of Bath; Adjunct Professor, Teaching and Education Development Institute, University of Queensland, Australia; and Research Associate, Centre for the Analysis of Risk and Regulation, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Roger has also recently concluded a six-year period as Visiting Professor at the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information (CHERI) at the Open University. Previously, in the 2000s, he has been a Visiting Professor at the following Australian universities: Griffith, QUT, and Sunshine Coast. He has also been Visiting Research Fellow at the Association of Commonwealth Universities (2003-5).

He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lincoln (UK) from 1989-2001 and the founding Chair of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (now the Higher Education Academy) from 1998-2001. He has been a member of the Board of the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education (OBHE) since its founding in 2001. He has undertaken various consultancy and Board positions in recent years.

He is also the Series Co-Editor (with Noel Entwistle) of Palgrave Macmillan's Universities into the Twenty First Century, which has produced a dozen or so well-received titles since 2002. He is also co-convenor of the Higher Education Policy Group for the Political Studies Association.

Recent book publications include: The State, Democracy and Globalization (2003); The University in the Global Age (2004); The Regulatory State in an Age of Governance (2007); Governing Universities Globally (2009); and a Handbook on Globalization and Higher Education (with Simon Marginson and Rajani Naidoo, 2011). In addition he has written a number of published journal and other articles, including on global science; network power and social constructivism; in higher education model diffusion; university rankings; and risk-based regulation.

Currently he is researching marketization, risk governance, and social networks in higher education policymaking.

William Locke

William Locke is Reader in Higher Education Studies and Co-Director (with Professor Sir Peter Scott) of the Centre for Higher Education Studies (CHES) at the Institute of Education, University of London. He is also Co-Director of the MBA in Higher Education Management, the first of its kind in Europe, established in 2002.

William was formerly Head of Learning and Teaching policy at the Higher Educatio​n Funding Council for England (HEFCE), leading policy on quality, the provision of information, funding for teaching, the control of student numbers and teacher education. Previously, he was Assistant Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information (CHERI) at the Open University and Deputy Director of Policy Development at Universities UK (UUK). In these roles, he has commissioned and undertaken a range of research and advocated a research-informed approach to policy analysis, development and implementation, which has had direct influence on both UUK and HEFCE, but also the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and other sector bodies, such as the Higher Education Academy and the Quality Assurance Agency. He is a member of the Governing Council of the Society for Research into Higher Education.

His research interests include the governance and management of higher education institutions; the changing academic profession; higher education policy and policy making; the impact of marketisation (including league tables and other forms of ranking) on higher education institutions and systems; and conceptions of teaching, learning and students. While at CHERI, he lead the UK part of an International study of the Changing Academic Profession. He is co- ordinating editor of Changing Governance and Management in Higher Education: The Perspectives of the Academy, which was awarded Best Comparative Higher Education Book in 2011 by the US Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Higher Education Special Interest Group. He has a wide range of other publications, including journal articles, book chapters and policy reports and has given keynote presentations at international conferences in North America, Japan, China, Australia and throughout Europe.

Professor Gareth Parry

Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Sheffield

Gareth Parry is Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Sheffield. His research is concerned with system change and policy reform in higher education.

He was a research consultant to the Dearing inquiry into higher education and the Foster review of further education colleges.

Gareth is a Fellow of the Society for Research into Higher Education and a Visiting Professor at the University of Melbourne.​

Professor Alison Wolf

Profile to follow

Dr Adam Wright

Adam works for the National Union of Students as a Policy Officer. He advises NUS and its members on higher education policy, particularly relating to postgraduates, research and knowledge exchange, higher education funding, and university governance. He also coordinates research across the policy team at NUS and acts as a research consultant on several externally funded research projects.

He joined NUS from the University of Essex, where he taught political theory and worked as a researcher on projects relating to international development and civil society. He also completed his PhD at Essex on the implementation of schools policy under New Labour, and remains active in academic research on UK education reform, giving evening talks and publishing articles in his spare time.



Ian Kimber (Chair)

Ian took up the position of Director Quality Development with the QAA in February 2015. In this position he is responsible for the Agency’s activities in quality enhancement, research and intelligence, business development and international. The Quality Development group oversees the implementation and maintenance of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education.

Prior to commencing with the QAA, Ian was with the Australian Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). Firstly, as a Special Advisor, he developed TEQSA’s regulatory and quality assurance business processes, then took up the position of Executive Director, Regulation and Review, with overall responsibility for all the agency’s regulatory and quality assurance processes, a position he held for three years.

Ian’s expertise in regulation and quality assurance in higher education and other education sectors was founded with the State Government of Queensland, Australia, where he was Executive Director of the Office of Higher Education for seven years. Ian also had responsibility for regulation of Vocational Education and Training and non-State schools during his time with the Queensland government.

His interests lay particularly in the interface of higher education quality assurance with other education sectors, the relationship between quality assurance and regulation, and risk-based approaches to both.

Dr Elizabeth Halford

Head of Research and Intelligence, QAA

​As Head of Research and Intelligence, Elizabeth Halford is responsible for the QAA research strategy and developing higher education sector intelligence, to inform policy and increase public awareness of the outputs and impact of review activity. This role entails engagement with a range of external stakeholders, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the UK funding councils, the Regulatory Partnership Group, Universities UK and the Association of Colleges.

Prior to joining QAA in 2012, Elizabeth was Head of Validation and Review at a UK university, having previously worked as a senior manager and lecturer in higher and further education. She holds a EdD from the Institute of Education, University of London and her research interests include widening participation, higher education in further education, and organisational and academic identities. Elizabeth has participated in researched projects funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).