Representation and Evaluation of Product Design in Research Assessment Exercises: A Case Study of the UK Ref 2014

DS 78: Proceedings of the 16th International conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE14), Design Education and Human Technology Relations, University of Twente, The Netherlands, 04-05.09.2014

Year: 2014
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits
Author: Maher, Carmel; Hadfield, Mark; Hutchings, Maggie; de Eyto, Adam
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1designcore, Institute of Technology, Carlow, Ireland; 2Faculty of Science and Technology, Engineering & Computing, Bournemouth University,England; 3School of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University, England; 4Product Design and Technology, University of Limerick, Ireland
Section: Design Education in Practice
Page(s): 437-442
ISBN: 978-1-904670-56-8


The social practice of design and design research and is continually evolving to meet the needs of society. Its representation and evaluation in research assessment exercises, such as the UK (Research Excellence Framework) REF 2014[1] has a key role to play in its evolution. Higher education curriculum is affected by this type of representation due to the alignment of academic research inquiry. This paper examines through a documentary analysis of the REF 2014, the practice of funding evaluation exercises to discover and describe how they work and to provide a critique of those practices, using critical discourse analysis. By using Fairclough’s[2] three dimensional framework for examining discursive events, it is possible to explore the “relationships of causality and determination”[2] between discursive practices (the evaluation and subsequent funding of UK Higher Education research) and texts (REF 2014) and the wider social and cultural structures and processes which are influencing and being influenced by it. The analysis reveals the considerable influence of REF 2014 in the discourses of other stakeholders and the dominance within those discourses of market system structures where accountability, public relations and intense competition are fundamental to their operation. It raises questions about the nature of research assessment exercises, their ability to reward a diverse range of research in a fair and equitable manner and the impact of research assessment exercises on research inquiry, academic freedom and originality in universities.

Keywords: Product Design Representation and Evaluation, Product Design Education, Higher Education Research Funding, UK REF 2014, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)


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