The Knowledge Exchange Framework: Where are We Now?

This article update was released ahead of the The Future of the Knowledge Exchange Forum 2021 taking place virtually on 23rd February 2021.

Find out more about KEF Forum 2021

The First Results

As with most planned submissions and releases across the higher education sector, the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) has faced a revised timescale in order to accommodate the pressures facing institutions as a result of the pandemic.

Yet, 2021 represents a pivotal moment for the development and the usage of the KEF in the long term. In early 2021 we can expect the release of the first KEF results. These will be based on the Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) dataset relating to 2018 – 2019 statistics. These will provide a key sector wide assessment of knowledge exchange activity across the sector, as well as delivering answers on how effective public funding is in supporting knowledge exchange across institutions.

Research England has also committed to publishing the KEF metrics for all providers receiving their Knowledge Exchange funding, we well as narrative information for institutions that have entered this submission.

Long-term Funding

The first iteration of KEF results will play a major part in determining how funding is allocated for knowledge exchange activity in the long term. Whilst Research England has highlighted there will be no immediate link to funding, the long-term ambition is to ensure future funding is conditional on engagement with the KEF.

Research England has pointed to a review on how knowledge exchange funding will be allocated, with the view that the KEF could be a major feature in developing a new funding model.

HE-BCI Under Review

The Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) data is central to the design and delivery of KEF. HESA has announced a major review of how the HE-BCI survey is conducted. Whilst the review is currently paused during the Covid-19 pandemic, the outcomes of the review will be central to future KEF results and how the next cycle of KEF may be designed and delivered.

Whilst the phase one consultation results have now be released by HESA, the design of the survey is still a long way off. HESA has made clear though that its wider objective will be to see the revision of the survey to better meet users’ needs for data on the engagement between institutions, businesses and wider communities.

The Focus for Institutions

Central to institutions’ priorities now will be learning lessons from the first iteration of KEF and assessing how they can deliver an enhanced response for the next cycle.

Narrative statements have been a key part of the KEF submission process and many institutions will now be questioning how they can better communicate their knowledge exchange activity and demonstrate their knowledge exchange outcomes to new audiences.

Knowledge exchange leaders will also be looking to review how they delivered their response to the first KEF and how they may revise their strategy in the long term, both to reflect good practice from across the sector and to ensure they are delivering a strong reflection of their knowledge exchange programmes.

Central to much of this reflection will be how institutions are able to embed the principles of the new Knowledge Exchange Concordat into their practices. The Knowledge Exchange Concordat is now likely to be a central tool in supporting institutions to enhance their performance by assessing how their mission, processes and engagement activity can be improved. Translating the Concordat into practice will be central to institutions’ delivering effective outcomes for the next KEF iteration.

It is clear the knowledge exchange sector faces a major juncture, with key answers to be addressed in how performance and engagement is enhanced. Yet it is equally clear that a lot of those answers will come from across the sector itself as institutions now seek to draw upon best practice and benchmark their performance following the first KEF.

Many answers are still to come, but the time for reflection and review comes now.