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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Executive summary


1. This document presents the findings of a small-scale qualitative study into the motivations of higher education (HE) providers for pursuing strategic-level innovations in learning and teaching; the source of these innovations; their impact on the learning experience of students; and their financial implications for HE providers. The project tells us why some institutions invest in innovation in learning and teaching, and what the enablers of innovation in HE are.

Key points

2. The project findings are based on qualitative analyses of phone interviews, and a focus group with institutional participants from a purposive sample of 21 HE providers that took place between October 2015 and March 2016.

3. The role of students, marketisation, regulation and leadership in supporting innovation in a rapidly evolving landscape were considered. The report highlights the diverse influences on innovation and the importance of national facilitation in helping underpinning systems work effectively. It also notes the vital role of institutional leadership and the need to engage students and governing bodies.

4. The research also secured suggestions from institutions on potential developments to support innovation in learning and teaching. These included providing vision and focus by putting innovation on the agenda; convening networks; workshops; and encouraging cross-institutional collaborations to share knowledge and information across the sector, internationally and between types of HE provider. Student and employer engagement were identified as key drivers of innovation.

Action required

5. This report is for information only. No action is required.

Further information

6. Further information is available from Amanda Wilcox (tel 0117 931 7086, email, and Siobhan O’Malley (tel 0117 931 7323, email

Date: 5 August 2016

Ref: HEFCE 2016/17

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland
Heads of providers with specific course designation or degree-awarding powers

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Learning and teaching

Enquiries should be directed to:

Siobhan O’Malley, tel 0117 931 7323, email