Research Assessment of the Education and Competence Studies Group

Report of International Peer Review Committee (2015) on ECS Research Programme

Scores Research quality 1
Relevance to society 1
Viability 1

Motivations for scores:

Research quality

ECS has exhibited excellence in research quality and is on a strong upward trajectory, both in terms of research productivity and the quality of research outputs. The number of refereed articles averaged 17 per year over the review period (up from 7 per year over the previous review period). The group publishes in both disciplinary and inter-disciplinary journals, with an ISI relative impact score of 2.1 across the review period. Over 50% of publications are in Q1 journals, with 38% in T10% (10% most cited papers) and one paper in the 1% most cited category (published in the prestigious journal Science). The ability to publish both in top-ranked disciplinary journals in the field of education, as well as top journals across a number of disciplines, including multidisciplinary sciences, agriculture, engineering and agronomy, among others, is commendable. ECS has a cohesive research programme focused around three inter-connected research themes related to competence development: societal forces, which influence competence needs; human resource development (education, social and business environments as a context for learning); and sustainable development (normative perspective). The group has established a strong national and international reputation in its field, with staff members active in journal editorial roles, as chairs of European and international research networks, and numerous invited keynote speeches at international conferences. Research produced by the group has been influential in the adoption of competence-based practices at organisations within the Netherlands and internationally. ECS has an impressive network of international research collaborations. Efforts to increase the proportion of highly competitive research grant (NWO) funding have paid off with an upward trajectory in grant funding beginning in 2012. The overall evaluation is that the ECS group conducts excellent research.

 

Relevance to society

ECS is actively engaged in the delivery of professional publications and outreach activities, including the ECS Bulletin, with information for practitioners. The group has had an important involvement in green education and the implementation of competence-based education, authentic competence assessment, sustainability in education and entrepreneurship education. Participation on advisory boards and in advisory positions to various bodies has enabled the group to enhance and broaden its impact in the implementation of competence based practices. 74,000 full text downloads of publications by ECS staff from the Wageningen Yield database and Research Gate is a strong indicator of the level of interest in, and influence of, the work produced by this group. The group is actively developing a social media plan for strategic use of key social networking platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, etc.) as dissemination and outreach mechanisms. Contract research funding accounts for just under 50% of ECS funding on average over the review period, suggesting strong interest in the research produced by this group from key funding bodies. The overall evaluation is that the ECS group makes an outstanding contribution to society.

 

Viability

The prospects and outlook for ECS are strong. The expertise and capacity of the group has been strengthened by the addition of two new tenure track assistant professors over the review period, as well as the appointment of one staff member as a personal professor. At a time when specialised educational faculties in other universities are facing budgetary challenges, the embedded nature of ECS within the life sciences focus of Wageningen University is a particular strength. The chair has a clear sense of vision and mission for the group and has encouraged the development of a cohesive, highly complementary set of research themes. The numbers and quality of PhD students has been increasing, and the group has identified strategies to improve the selection and retention of higher quality PhD students. The chair holder emphasises professional autonomy for research staff members, balanced with a clear set of goals for continued professional growth. The chair holder is due to retire and active steps have been taken to encourage smooth succession planning with the unit. Prompt replacement of the Chair upon his retirement will be particularly important. The overall evaluation is that the ECS group is excellently equipped for the future.