A conducive environment? The role of need support in the higher education workplace and its effect on academics' experiences of research assessment in the UK

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Little is known about how researchers in higher education institutions (HEIs) experience and respond to support received from their departments. The present study investigated how support for researchers' autonomy (choice and self-expression), relatedness (through connections with colleagues) and competence (feeling effective in one's work) influenced their attitudes towards an external assessment of research. To do so, we surveyed 598 academics from four HEIs in the UK about their attitudes towards one such external assessment: the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a nationwide assessment of research quality and the subject of debate about research evaluation. Our findings, drawing on self-determination theory, show that departments can shape responses to the REF: individuals whose psychological needs were supported by their academic departments held more positive, and less negative, attitudes towards the REF. This occurred both directly and indirectly through researchers' recognition that the REF had a more positive influence on their research activities and outputs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-160
Number of pages15
JournalHigher Education Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2020

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© 2020 The Authors. Higher Education Quarterly published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd



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