Different rules apply pre-92

March 19, 2009

Subtle observer he may be of university politics and policy, but when it comes to those upstart crows the post-92 universities, Alan Ryan likes his slogans as much as the next minister ("It is all a matter of taste", 12 March).

He has a curious sense of tradition. If post-92 universities are to "focus on teaching their traditional clientele", perhaps the same should go for (a) pre-92 universities that failed to demonstrate research excellence until some way into the history of the research assessment exercise, and (b) those that struggled to match the achievement - and the return on public investment - of their parvenu rivals in 2008.

If the rest of us are to join Ryan in applauding John Denham, the Universities Secretary, for proposing that "different sorts of universities should do what they are good at", we'll have to give up reading Times Higher Education. There are just too many upsetting stories about the research and knowledge transfer successes of post-92 universities.

As for Ryan's suggestion that a "terrible display of wounded vanity" would follow the implementation of Denham's Daily Mail musings, he can presumably reassure us that that isn't what we've seen from numerous pre-92 vice-chancellors since the RAE results were published, and that the research policies of the same vice-chancellors since 2001 should not be classified as "self-deceiving nonsense".

David Roberts, Newman University College.

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