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KE & Impact

The funding having made the Language and Culture in Tourism (LCT) project possible was the Knowledge Transfer Champion scheme of UCL Enterprise. Knowledge Exchange and Impact were therefore critical elements of focus. Calls (within British universities) for further research showing engagement and knowledge exchange between the Arts and Humanities and their wider cultural and civil milieu are  also echoed. 

By focussing on businesses in the Bloomsbruy area, LCT illustrates UCL’s dedication to engaging its most immediate surroundings, which is apparent in its definition of Public Engagement (official UCL Public Engagement Strategy).

This also echoes changes in Higher Education Institutions’ relationship to their surroundings noted by Arbo and Benneworth (2007) and the view that universities are part of the social fabric to which they belong. 

Knowledge Exchange is perceptible in Language and Culture in Tourism (LCT), in that it:

  • entailed exchanges of knowledge between tourism industry professionals and academics
  • supported the development of guidelines for CPD courses in intercultural communication addressing the real intercultural needs of London’s tourism industry
  • initiated the promotion of sustainable diversity/multilingual communities and positive transformations in the localities of the people involved in the research

For some, Knowledge Exchange, and also Knowledge Transfer and Public Engagement are activities ‘leading to’ Impact. For the purpose of research carried out within the LCT project Knowledge Exchange and Knowledge Transfer were distinguished. Knowledge Exchange referred to academic activities where academic knowledge and skills are put at the service of individuals/groups outside academia but where the academics involved also actively aim to learn from the individual/groups they are engaging. Knowledge Transfer, on the other hand, was perceived as academic initiatives where academic knowledge and skills are solely put at the service of the outside individual/groups. These are initiatives whose relevance goes beyond academia but for which the sharing of knowledge is unidirectional, i.e. going from the academic(s) to the outside groups involved. This is not without echoing some definitions of Public Engagement, e.g. ‘a two-way process of exchange between the institution and the public […] with all involved learning from each other’ (UCL Guiding principles for public engagement). UCL Research Impact also defines Public Engagement as activities involving ‘a dialogue’ between the academe and an audience.

Impact on tourism professionals:

At least three things should be noted about non-academic Impact (henceforth Impact):

(i) there are many different kinds of Impact (e.g. cultural/financial impact, public engagement, health benefits; see Davies et al 2005 for further information)

(ii) Impact is understood in a variety of ways and has been widely debated and criticised (e.g. the AHRC’s definition is different from the REF’s definition)

(iii) in Arts and Humanities, engaging non-academic audiences, evaluating and measuring Impact is a potentially challenging task deserving careful attention.

Concerning (i), two principal types of impact were at stake in Language and Culture in Tourism (LCT): engaging private businesses and benefits on work practice.

Regarding (ii) and following the Research Councils UK’s understanding of Impact, LCT understood Impact as the contribution academic research can make to society and the economy and claims that ‘non-academic research impact is about identifying the influences of research findings on policy, managerial and professional practices, social behaviour or public discourse’ (Davies et al 2005: 11) were also upheld. However, critical debates concerning Impact in the Arts and Humanities were also taken into consideration. This applies to Looseley’s (2011) discussion of impact in the Humanities highlighting the relationship between ‘market triumphalism’ and impact in the Humanities and calling onto researchers to critically appraise this relationship so as to be in a position to ‘critique any monotheistic discourse of economic usefulness and social impact (2011: 17)’.

(iii) stresses that research with Impact primarily means engaging people outside the academe. In that regard, LCT involved careful planning (e.g. location of audiences, number of people to be involved) so that pertinent audiences could be engaged and the best means to approach these audiences could be used (e.g. email, phone, call, online discussion forums). It also acknowledged that people can be reticent to participate (e.g. difficulty in engaging health practitioners highlighted in Delaney 2007). In LCT, the evaluation and measuring of Impact was addressed formally by means of written evaluation forms handed out after the two public engagement events organised and of interviews (some questions were directly concerned with assessing interviewees’ views on the usefulness of CPD courses in intercultural communication). Informally, casual conversations with tourism professionals, academics, local authorities, distance learning specialists, business trainers, etc. throughout the project informed the evaluation and measuring of the Impact of the project (the LCT - REPORT: Outcomes of workshop and round table includes information concerning the evaluation of the project).

The interconnectedness between the concepts of Public Engagement, Knowledge Exchange, Knowledge Transfer and Impact which have come under penetrating scrutiny in the Arts and Humanities is apparent. Understanding these has become increasingly relevant to British researchers, particularly since the advent of Pathways to Impact.

Previous research having explored universities’ engagement with their ‘regions’ informed Language and Culture in Tourism. For example:

  • the PASCAL Universities’ Regional Engagement Project (PURE)
  • the ESRC project (2008) focussed on investigating the impact of the ‘cultural presence’ of British universities’ on disadvantaged communities in their regions 
  • OECD’s project entitled ‘Supporting the Contribution of Higher Education to Regional Development’ which involved 14 regions in five continents (see publication in 2007 of Higher Education and Regions: Globally Competitive, Regionally Engaged)

Page last modified on 18 feb 13 09:42