Imperial sartorial research

February 19, 2015

The results of the research excellence framework reveal that 52,061 full-time equivalent academic staff in 154 UK higher education institutions submitted 191,150 research outputs and 6,975 impact case studies that were reviewed by 898 academic members of expert subpanels and 259 research users. The cost of this exercise is now estimated to be in excess of £1 billion (“Academic estimates ‘real’ cost of REF exceeds £1bn”, News, 12 February), and in spite of arguments to the contrary, this is likely to be an underestimate as the REF dominated most academics’ working lives for several years prior to the October 2013 census date.

The purpose of all this activity and expense? To distribute £1.7 billion annual quality-related funding, or about £30,000 for each academic returned. To put that in the context of the other major activity of those on teaching and research contracts, this is roughly the same amount generated in tuition fees by only two hours of lecturing to 200 students taking a typical 10 lecture, 10 credit course. Best keep that to ourselves, however, as someone may spot that the emperor isn’t actually wearing any clothes.

Colin Hendrie
Associate professor of human and animal ethology
University of Leeds

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