Staff in the School of Sociology and Criminology are delighted today to hear that their research has been rated as excellent in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)* for 2008. The large bulk of staff submitted to the RAE from the School went under the Social Policy and Administration category (covering all of Criminology and some Sociology, as well as other bits of research, for example Social Work and Gerontology). This research grouping scored one of the highest scores in the university as a whole, and nationally, Keele is ranked 12th in the country in this field. This is an excellent result for us since it means Keele is at the forefront of international research in this area, with a large number of scholars of not only international reputation (65%), but also 'world leading' in their field (15%).
In our School, we are particularly proud to have achieved this given the commitment to high quality teaching. At Keele teaching and research are interdependent and we believe strongly in both. This means that students are taught directly by experts in their fields and have access to the best, newest research. At the same time, students are still the backbone of a university and without the best efforts of committed lecturers, our joint successes in teaching quality and research would not have been possible. The School of Sociology and Criminology for example features highly in examples of good teaching practice within the university, almost all of our staff have a Higher Education teaching qualification, our student feedback is fairly consistently good (including in the National Student Survey) and our support systems are efficient and, well, supportive! One of the things that isn't often discussed in the debate about the balance between research and teaching is the way in which teaching students can really enrich and develop research ideas. Most staff in our School teach options in their specialist research areas and this means that students themselves are contributing to the body of knowledge from the university.
Of course, the area where research strength makes the biggest difference is to postgraduate opportunities. World-class staff and a supportive research culture with appropriate resources make a big difference to postgraduates. Keele has a number unique advantages for postgrads.
First, it can rightly claim its place alongside the big hitters in research in these fields and since the choice of postgraduate degree is often based on supervisor's reputation, scoring well in the RAE is crucial here. Keele is a friendly and vibrant place to be a postgraduate student with plenty of research projects ongoing and the small size of the university means it is very easy to tap into the expertise of others. To find out more about the specialist areas of the Sociology and Criminology staff at Keele, please follow the links.
Second, Keele has a well-developed research infrastructure to support postgraduates. The two Research Institutes that cover staff in Sociology and Criminology are the RI for Lifecourse Studies and the RI for Law, Politics and Justice. Each has dedicated space for postgraduates to work, meet, attend a multitude of exciting research seminars, to access funding support for research activities such as conference attendance, and provision of high quality equipment and software. Keele's Graduate School also provides important support for postgraduates, ensuring the process runs smoothly and students are provided with appropriate supervision and resources.
Third, Keele has an amazing self-contained environment. One of the most beautiful rural campuses in the UK, we have acres of parkland and woodland in which to create those big thoughts. We have fully equipped sporting facilities, cultural facilities such as the art gallery and a full programme of music events from the Bach Choir and Keele Philharmonic to big-name bands in the students union, award winning coffee shop (and some of the best cakes - and Staffordshire oatcakes - in Staffordshire!). We have our own bookshop, our own nursery, an excellent school in the beautiful conservation area of Keele village, and even purpose-built housing for staff and postgraduates, as well as undergraduates. Keele is currently establishing new developments to build on our research expertise in Environmental Science/Policy and our amazing campus resource in order to develop Keele as a landmark 'green' campus.
Fourth, Keele is a good place to be, especially if you're visiting the UK from overseas. We are less than an hour from the major cities of Birmingham and Manchester, and Manchester Airport (50 minutes drive away) is a major international hub you can fly into from just about anywhere in the world. London is just under two hours away on the fast train service. We are - literally - minutes from the M6 motorway which can get you to the Lake District within 3 hours, and Scotland within 4.5. More locally, Chester, the Potteries, the beautiful English countryside of Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire and even Wales are well within an hour.
*[The RAE is a measure of the quality of research output and research culture at universities. Every few years academic staff submit examples of their best publications and the research environment is measured by assessing how much funding for research projects staff bring in and how supportive of research the university is. ]