Double standards

July 26, 2012

Last month, the Higher Education Funding Council for England issued a piece of advice relating to individual circumstances for the research excellence framework.

On the REF website, Hefce lists a series of frequently asked questions. One asks: "If an individual takes a 'career break' from research, but remains in the higher education sector to undertake a management, administrative or teaching only role, would they be eligible for a reduction in outputs?" The answer: "No. (The number of outputs may be reduced without penalty if the career break involved not working in the...sector and not undertaking academic research.)" This is unjust.

Consider two academics who, for whatever reason, make a temporary move into full-time management roles. The first stays within the academy and is thus expected by Hefce to do just as much research (unpaid and on the side) as someone with a dedicated research role. The second moves outside the sector (for example, secondment into industry) and is not expected to do any research at all during that time. Hefce insists on treating them differently, no matter how similar their day jobs are.

Daniel Hill, Department of philosophy, University of Liverpool

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