Surely the underpinning problem with RAE league-table construction, or at least the particular problem identified by the vice-chancellors, is that we are trying to describe and rank, using a single figure of merit, data that actually have two independent dimensions: quality and volume.
Since the unit of assessment results already contain metrics for both, why not extend this into your aggregated league tables?
Any departure from this approach, involving attempts to conflate these two variables, degrades the information source.
Conversely, by using a "double-sided" figure of merit, several institutions could attain the same quality score but still be meaningfully differentiated by the "volume-metric".
The reader would thereby be presented with both the independent pieces of information that are the minimum prerequisite for comparative judgement-making.
School of Management
University of Newcastle.