Denham deluded over funding focus on elite 1

March 5, 2009

John Denham, the Universities Secretary, will have to devise a very crude alternative to the research assessment exercise if he wants to restrict future funding of "pockets of excellence" in teaching-led higher education institutions ("Denham to draw up 15-year framework for the future", 26 February).

Does he believe the RAE to be a pointless exercise that gets in the way of ensuring the smooth flow of money to a pre-ordained elite? Imagine his embarrassment when he discovered that students right across the system are benefiting from being taught by staff with world-leading publications to their names. I can understand why he wants to put a stop to it. A nice two-tier system will restore the natural order, for sure: sciences and humanities for some, vocational courses for the rest.

But there is cause for hope. Neither Denham nor anyone else will be able to stop the flow of original, subject-changing work that stems from less research-intensive institutions. If the research excellence framework embodies any of the principles of the RAE, he won't find it easy to stop the flow of money either.

David Roberts, Newman University College, Birmingham.

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