The decision to allocate only £20 million to 3a units has little basis in quality. At least two-thirds of the members of any 3a unit carry out research of national excellence, compared with 4-rated units, where the minimum criterion is that most are at national level. There is little difference in quality between 3a and 4.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England's decision will have a serious effect on morale, particularly in units that have improved from a 1 or 2 in 1996 to a 3a in 2001. The goalposts have moved.
Reader in psychology
Nottingham Trent University