‘Nations with Cabinet ministers for higher education who are former academics or university leaders tend to have “a higher level of performance” in research, according to a new study.
When ministers with a university background are responsible for higher education – and also have political experience – there is a “positive impact” on the number of highly cited researchers and papers indexed in the Science Citation Index and the Social Sciences Citation Index, according to the paper looking at data for 20 European nations, published in Research Policy.
The authors suggest that experience from a university career can give ministers knowledge of concepts including academic freedom and the publication process that might be problematic for outsiders. These skills and knowledge “should lead to a better-functioning ministry and an improvement of the higher education system”, notably in reforms that make a sector more attractive to leading researchers, the authors add.
After examining data gathered for leading research institutions included in Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities, the paper’s authors find a “robust correlation between the higher education performance [of a nation’s universities] and the academic experience of the minister”.
Examples of academics-turned-ministers include Jo Ritzen, who was a professor in the economics of education before becoming minister for education and science in the Netherlands from 1989 to 1998 (and later serving as president of Maastricht University).’ – Times Higher Education