Oxford to gain new skills research centre

A new research centre which will investigate the links between skills, knowledge, and performance, is to be set up in Oxford, backed by £2m from the Economic and Social Research Council. The University will act as `joint host' of the multi-disciplinary centre, to be called the Centre on Skills, Knowledge, and Organisational Performance (SKOPE), along with the University of Warwick Business School.

The Director will be Mr Ken Mayhew, Reader in Economics and Fellow of Pembroke College, with Dr Ewart Keep, Principal Research Officer at the Industrial Relations Research Unit from Warwick, as Deputy Director. Professor Richard Pring, Director of the University Department of Educational Studies, will lead the Centre's dissemination activities as Associate Director.

Mr Mayhew said: `Conventional wisdom tells us that skills and knowledge now form the sole sustainable source of competitive advantage within and between developed nations. Yet the evidence is that not many organisations are pursuing this advantage through skills enhancement.'

`Much of our work will focus on the demand for skills in employment and their deployment within organisations', he added. `These decisions by companies are as critical to national economic success as the supply of skills, but they are much less well understood.'

The new centre will focus on the nature, origin, and worth of models of competitive advantage; strategies for skill usage; links between supply and demand for skills and their deployment; evaluations of the consequences of following particular skills strategies.

An extensive international network of associate fellows, academics, and researchers from other institutions, will complement the work of the centre's initial core staff of nine. SKOPE will also work closely with UK government departments, business, staff and training organisations, and international bodies in Europe and the USA, through joint research projects and surveys and staff secondments.

When it opens in October, the centre will be based at the Institute of Economics and Statistics. But it plans to move next year with the Economics Department to the new Social Studies Building on the St Cross site. The ESRC funding will be provided over the first five years of the Centre's work.

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