UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Peer Review College Membership

I am very pleased to have been invited to join the Peer Review College for the UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) Future Leaders Fellowships.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) ‘is the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UKRI brings together the 7 Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England’.

‘The UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF) will grow the strong supply of talented individuals needed to ensure that UK research and innovation continues to be world class.’

Accessing Academic Journal Articles when away from a University

Now is the time when students, and indeed academics, are away from universities.  From having academic journal articles at your fingertips, you can find yourself confronted by previously good natured academic publishers persuading you to part with your hard earned cash in order to access an article.

This is not a good thing.

So, from hardest to easiest, here are methods for accessing those articles.  This is for the University of Oxford, but other universities have the same setup.

University Library Journal Search

For example

Various journals have various sign in mechanisms, which is a bit of a pain, but you probably will be able to find what you are looking for here.


Many journals are accessible when connected within your university – access tends to be based on the IP address of your computer.  So, no access from outside.  To counter this, you can use a VPN – for example – you need to download VPN client software, and that should make it seem as though your computer is in Oxford, and you should have access.

Google Scholar

The other way of doing it is to search for the article title in Google Scholar.  See for example . The pdf link on the right should give you access.  If that doesn’t work, you can sometimes find the right version by clicking on ‘All n versions’, as one of those may be the pdf.


And if that doesn’t work, just Google the name of the article followed by filetype:pdf, for example

Appeal to the Author’s Vanity

And if that all fails, write to the author(s) directly.  We are vain people, and there’s nothing better than to receive a request from a student, particularly if they are genuinely interested in the work.  Just type their name into Google, and their university webpage should show you their contact email address.

The Exponential First

The first class honours degree is the ultimate prize for UK undergraduates.  It is a symbol of being the best of the best.  Undoubtedly, this is the case for some students.  Yet the statistics for the number of first class honours degrees awarded by UK Higher Education Institutions (‘universities’ to most of us) shows, well, things aren’t what they used to be.

There is a competitive problem for universities.  Undoubtedly, awarding first class degrees is attractive to students, their families, and employers.  It is a symbol of perceived quality.  And so, there is an incentive to increase the number of firsts awarded.  Which makes competitors less attractive, which leads them to award more firsts, which… well, you can see the problem.

And the figures say it all.  In the graph below, I have plotted the percentage of firsts awarded in the UK.  Over a 11 year period, this percentage has doubled.  While arguably being not quite exponential growth, the upward trajectory is clear.  Which indicates that this problem isn’t going away.


But what to do?  Put a government imposed limit on the percentage of firsts allowed?  That would work, but universities would argue that they have a better intake so should be allowed to award more.  Scrap the degree classification and report marks?  That would be useful, but there is no comparison between students.  Maybe a rank position would work.  Yes, that may be the best solution.  But then how do you compare between universities?  Self-confident universities need to stand up and take the lead in declaring that their first is not the same as another university’s first.  The question is which ones – and when?