The Department has a research mentoring scheme to support newly appointed lecturers and post-doctoral researchers in developing research capacity. This is in addition to College level probation. Under the scheme, our strongest researchers mentor junior staff exclusively on research matters. Mentors work with the Director of Research and the Head of Department, but also liaise with the Research and Enterprise Office and feed back suggestions and advice.
Permanent lecturers are relieved of major administrative tasks and are given initially reduced work loads that increase during their three year period of probation. It is College policy for all research-active staff to be entitled to request a period of sabbatical leave every nine terms (there being three terms in an academic year). It is the Department’s policy to manage workloads to maximise research time through a freely circulated workload model balancing teaching and administrative load across staff.
Grant applications are discussed with colleagues through a departmental system for internal review of applications, and the College’s Research and Enterprise Office provides further advice and support. The Department has a Director of Research and an activist Research Committee. The Research Committee encourages and oversees the work of the research centres; applications for external research funding, conference support and sabbatical leave. It manages research ethics, monitors research students, and, most importantly, works to develop the Department’s vibrant research culture. The Department has a long-running Research Seminar that include several visiting speakers throughout the academic year, and a Working Papers Series.
The Director of Graduate Study is responsible for research student recruitment and progress monitoring. Doctoral students are supported from a variety of external and internal sources. The Department is part of the ESRC-Recognised Southeast Doctoral Training Centre that includes Reading, Surrey, and Kent Universities. This gives the Department access to a quota of 1+3 studentships awarded to the consortium.
All academic members of staff receive a generous conference allowance. Members of staff are active participants in the mainstream professional associations: PSA, BISA, APSA, ISA, ECPR, UACES. Doctoral students presenting papers at conferences receive an automatic funding allowance. In recent years, the Department raised over £30K of internal funding from the College's Research Strategy Fund. Our four research units have devolved budgets from the Department (overseen by the Research Committee and HoD) to assist with research activity such as workshops, conferences, visiting speaker series and research tasks such as editorial assistance for the four journals partly edited by staff in the Department.
The Department has world-class ICT equipment. All new members of staff are provided with a new computer and customised software. A pool of ultra-portable laptops and mini data projectors for staff and research student use is maintained and regularly refreshed by the Department. In early 2007 we secured £22K from the special HEFCE equipment fund to renew our digital research infrastructure. This allowed the Department to purchase a significant number of new desktop and notebook computers, digital voice recorders, scanners, qualitative data analysis software licenses for staff and doctoral students, and a video editing suite.
In the short period since the Department’s formation we have developed an extremely active research culture. This involves many of the 'standard' mechanisms (seminars with internal and external speakers, regular seminars where staff and research students talk about work in progress, and regularly published working papers). But the Department has also run thematic day-long annual research workshops (Responses to the Iraq War, 2006; The Blair Premiership, 2007; Democracy in Crisis, 2008).
The Department played a pivotal role in establishing the Magna Carta Lectures (with the Magna Carta Trust) in 2005. This celebrates the document's lasting influence and will be delivered annually until 2015, its 800th anniversary. Speakers to date include Lord Woolf, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and Professor the Rt Hon Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby.