'Best in show' is useless

January 21, 2010

It was interesting to read that the RAND Europe report on research impact favours the ill-fated Australian Research Quality Framework (RQF) as the "best fit" for such a model here ("Global impact tasters show REF will be no picnic", 14 January). In fact, it is the only example of an impact model in existence. Let's hope the Higher Education Funding Council for England reads the passage in the report suggesting that the RQF's "impact indicators" are "not sufficiently developed and tested to be used to make funding suggestions".

Hefce should also take on board the comments made by Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research in Australia, who said that the RQF was "poorly designed, administratively expensive and relies on an impact measure that is unverifiable and ill-defined".

And in case anyone thinks that such opposition is merely political, the Group of Eight, Australia's equivalent of the Russell Group, declared that the RQF would be bureaucratic and exclude potential Nobel laureates.

"Impact" wasn't good enough for Australian higher education and is untested anywhere else in the world. It's high time the Government and Hefce joined David Willetts in listening to the 18,000 academics who have called for its withdrawal. Let's put an end to this sorry story once and for all.

Alastair Hunter, President, University and College Union.

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