Utility As A First Principle For Educational Research: Reworking Autonomy In Australian Higher Education

Trevor Gale and Jan Wright
Vol 27, Number 1-2, p.115
The focus of this paper is on the community impact of education research, as conceived specifically within a changing context of research assessment in Australia, first mooted by the previous Federal Coalition (conservative) Government within a new Research Quality Framework (RQF), and now to be reworked by the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiated by the incoming Federal Labour (progressive) Government. Convinced that a penchant for the utility of research will not go away, irrespective of the political orientations of government, our interest is in exploring: the assumption that research, particularly in areas such as education, should have an impact in the community (as this was first defined within the RQF); the difficulties much education research (despite its “applied” characterisation) has in complying with this ideal; and what a community impact requirement means for the kinds of education research that will be privileged in the future. In particular, we are concerned about the potential narrowing of education research directed at or by community impact and what is lost in the process. One potential loss or weakening is in the positional autonomy of higher education to conduct independent education research.