The debacle over A-level results might have led some to suspect that education secretary Estelle Morris interfered in the workings of the examining bodies ("V-cs get set for crisis fallout", THES , September ). Her answers to correspondence on a parallel issue, the research assessment exercise, paint a different picture.
Something went horribly wrong in the RAE process used for unit of assessment 21 (environmental sciences). It took a number of requests for Morris to intervene before it finally dawned on me that she is powerless to do anything. When the government delegates to a quango, in this case the Higher Education Funding Council for England, it does so fully.
As an ex-management development consultant, I had assumed and had taught that one delegates the power to act but not the responsibility. It seems that those in government delegate both. What has emerged in the RAE case is that the quango makes no provision for any appeal on any grounds. I will pursue this matter of natural justice and sound management sense with Hefce.
Professor of biogeochemistry
Oxford Brookes University