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The UK's only independent think tank devoted to higher education.

How do you measure the impact of a think tank? How do we spend your money? And what should we do in future?

  • 26 November 2019
  • By Nick Hillman

In a new initiative this year, HEPI is publishing an Annual Review. This is an edited version of a private report prepared each year for our Trustees and has not been published before.

The short (four-page) report recaps our work from August 2018 to July 2019, covering:

  • 25 pieces of published output;
  • a busy programme of 30 events; and
  • our expanded online output, with a brand new website and many more blogs than ever before.

In the past few years, HEPI has tripled its output in all three of these areas.

It is notoriously difficult to gauge the impact of any think tank, but the Annual Review lists some of the areas where we are most likely to have influenced public debate. It also quotes some people who have engaged with our recent work, which hopefully provides additional evidence of impact.

But let’s face it: the unavoidable nature of such documents, as with universities’ own annual reviews, is that they are:

  1. backward-looking; and
  2. a little boastful.

HEPI’s Trustees rightly believe it is still worth publishing the report in order to explain more clearly to those who fund HEPI and everyone else how our resources are used, in line with our long-standing commitment to transparency. (As a non-partisan charity, we have an overall goal of being more transparent than the generality of think tanks in the UK and around the world, especially other smaller think tanks.)

Just as importantly, we are making the document available now because we want people to respond by giving us feedback on what we do. In late 2020, HEPI will reach adulthood, as the organisation was founded in November 2002. In the years since, we’ve reflected, reacted to and led higher education policy debates on a huge range of issues, including student loan write-off costs, students’ wellbeing and mental health, perceptions of value for money, staff and student workloads, research funding, widening participation and fair access and the financial and non-financial contributions of international students.

As we take stock of our past, it seems the right moment to start looking ahead to the future and to consider what other issues we should focus on and whether we should continue to engage in the same ways as in the past. So we would welcome all engagement with our first Annual Review. Please do provide any feedback you may have.

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