The vice-chancellors of Lancaster, Umist and York argue for a research assessment exercise league table based on total staff ("Rankled by rankings", Letters, THES , January 18).
This is not unreasonable in itself. The problem is with the consistency of the data. Because of special circumstances, some universities, by prior agreement with the funding councils, were allowed to ignore some groups of inactive staff in their returns. In addition, at a very late stage in the preparation of submissions, it became clear that the definitions used to define an eligible academic member of staff were, for some categories of staff, being interpreted differently by different institutions.
Although the funding councils sought to address this, it is likely that different universities arrived at different categories of staff to be included or declared inactive.
The only safe league table is the one that ranks those staff who were assessed rather than the one that makes unreliable assumptions about those omitted.
Director of planning and information
Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine.