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Policy Research (PRI)

Policy Research

Policy Research (PRI) specializes in providing high quality research and consultancy services across a range of policy areas including employment and skills, economic development and performance management.

PRI has a long history of research and consultancy for government departments and agencies, local and regional authorities and organisations within the voluntary and private sectors. It is led by Dr David Devins and includes experienced researchers Dr Tim Bickerstaffe, Sallyann Halliday, Ben Mitchell and Sarah Kelsey. The team is engaged in a range of projects including policy evaluations, research, systematic reviews and consultancy on topics such as poverty, social mobility, competitiveness, training and public sector reforms.

PRI undertakes a wide range of projects to inform policy, practice and effective decision-making at all stages of the policy process including analytical and technical studies, evidence reviews, evaluation studies and knowledge transfer. PRI is also engaged in research projects in collaboration with other researchers and academics in the university on subjects related to work-based learning, human resource development and leadership, health promotion, the night-time economy and public relations competencies. PRI’s clients include the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Department for Education (DfE), Morrison’s, Wakefield MDC and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Research activities

Labour Market Progression

We have worked on a series of projects focused on the progression of workers into and from low paid employment. Our review of research for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in 2011 examined the role of skills in helping people from worklessness to sustainable employment with progression. This comprehensive international evidence review included analysis of the issue from the perspectives of labour market context, policies supporting the transition from benefits into work and also factors influencing sustained labour market progression. Following this, we conducted further research for the UK Commission in 2012 looking at the practices of employers in enabling the progression of their low-paid staff. This research involved employer case studies and found that progression practices led to improved employee retention and greater organisational flexibility. More recently, we have investigated the issue of progression from an industrial sector viewpoint, specifically, the care, retail and catering/hospitality sectors. The study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlights the sector specific problems relating to progression and draws on case studies within the three sectors to provide examples of how employers can implement successful career pathways for all their employees. We have also conducted similar work on progression and training for Morrisons Supermarkets (view the case study here).


PRI has a long track record of evaluation work, having conducted many major policy evaluations for national government departments and other agencies. Most recently we have been a research partner in the evaluation of the Department for Education’s Youth Contract and led the evaluation of the (PMF) Jobcentre Plus Performance Management Framework (PMF) for the DWP. Working with the Institute for Employment Studies and the Centre for Education and Industry at the University of Warwick, PRI is currently evaluating the targeted support provided by the Youth Contract for young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) The evaluation involves tracking the design and delivery of the initiative over time and assessing its impact. The PMF evaluation, completed in 2012, built on the PRI’s work for the DWP over the previous decade and provided an overview of the framework’s implementation and operation. PRI also provides evaluation and systematic review training workshops for the Social Research Association.

European Projects

Intergenerational Succession in SMEs’ transition (INSIST)  

European and national statistics reveal the importance of ownership and management transition in small and medium sized enterprises. In the next 10 years, it is estimated that one-third of Europe’s private firms will have to undergo a transfer of ownership. The two-year Erasmus-Strategic Partnership funded project seeks to support the sustainability and growth of family based-SMEs. This is through the development and piloting of innovative Masters level qualifications that are in tune with the interests of those seeking to manage and lead or support successful transition in family businesses in three universities located in Hungary, Poland and the UK.

Project website.

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and Deliberative Engagement (SME-DE)

The challenge that lies at the heart of the project is how to engage SME’s on complex problems related to climate change.  This two year project funded under the Lifelong Learning Programme aims to test the use of deliberative engagement methodologies and to produce an executive development programme that will equip business intermediaries with a new set of capabilities and business tools that will enable them to connect with SMEs in powerful ways so that those SMEs can collaborate effectively in solving their common and complex long-term sustainability problems.  Four Higher Educational Institutions working in partnership with five business partners are delivering the project in seven European countries.  

Project website.

The European Communication Professionals Skills and Innovation Programme (ECOPSI)

The communication sector in Europe has grown and developed significantly in the last 20 years and political, economic and cultural shifts have led organisations to recognise the role and significance of communication in achieving their goals. This 2-year Erasmus funded project explored the competencies required by communication professionals in Europe. It found that although public relations and communication is a maturing discipline, there is little organised life-long learning or evidence of recognized continuing professional development (CPD) pathways. Social Media knowledge was an acknowledged weakness and the industry also needs to look closely at how it can foster intercultural relationships and cross-cultural working through accredited and recognized programmes of exchange, secondment and internship.

Project website.

Work Based Learning as an Integrated Curriculum (WBLIC)

Universities are increasingly being asked by government and related agencies to engage employers in curriculum development and the development of curriculum which matches learner and employer (or labour market) needs with university provision is seen to be an essential element in improving student employability and providing employers with the higher level skills essential to business success.  This 2-year Erasmus funded project explored the significance of joint university-employer development and delivery of curriculum.  By looking at examples of partnerships in different seven European countries, the project identified and shared good practice and developed a framework to guide curriculum developers and those bodies wishing to engage with higher education accredited work based learning.

Project website.