Professor Richard James was Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Undergraduate) and Deputy Provost & a Co-Director of the Melbourne Centre for the Study of  Higher Education. He holds a Chair in Higher Education and is a prominent researcher, commentator on higher education policy in Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.  He is a member of the national Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP).

Richard has wide-ranging research interests in higher education that centre on the quality of the student experience.  His research program spans access and equity, the transition to university, student finances, student engagement, quality assurance and academic standards. He has published widely on the effects of social class on higher education aspirations and participation.  He has been the recipient or co-recipient of over $4 million in grants, including national competitive research grants.  He has published over 100 journal articles, book chapters, books and book-length reports and supervised 30 research students to successful completion, including 15 doctoral students. He was awarded an ARC Discovery Grant in 2010 for a project to examine new approaches to performance management in public sector organisations.

Much of his academic work is related to policy development. Richard led significant national studies of equity and student finances for Universities Australia that were influential in the 2008 Review of Australian Higher Education.  In 2008 he co-directed the DEEWR commissioned project that developed the Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS).  He has been a member of the advisory group for the Learning and Teaching Performance Fund (LTPF), the AUQA Advisory Group on Standards, the Advancing Quality of Higher Education (AQHE) advisory group and the Quality Indicators for Learning and  Teaching (QILT) advisory group.  He has conducted extensive policy development for the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (IHEAC).

Richard's research interests include studies of aspects of teaching and learning, including the assessment of student learning, the influences of disciplines of approaches to teaching, the teaching-research nexus and peer review of teaching. With CSHE colleagues he developed the framework, criteria and guidelines for the Australian Awards for University Teaching program of the then Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC).