No research regrets

June 13, 2003

Sir Gareth Roberts argues in his recent review that the research assessment exercise has proved a waste of time for institutions that gained only a small percentage of their income from the exercise. This attitude betrays a regrettable ignorance about the impact of the RAE on some of the post-1992 universities and colleges.

I am a member of a small history programme in a college of higher education. Our 3a grading in the 1996 exercise brought us the very modest sum of about £30,000 for five years. Although this was small change in RAE terms, these funds were used during the late 1990s to launch a small research centre, set up a programme of research seminars and conferences, and - for the first time in the college's 150-year history - to provide some limited funded research leave for staff, several of whom the 2001 RAE history panel acknowledged to be of international standing.

The decision by the funding council to withdraw these funds means that these important developments are now jeopardised and staff morale consequently undermined.

Entering the RAE did not seem a waste of time to me. Trying to persuade the government and its advisers that valuable research can be carried out beyond the golden triangle most definitely is.

Chris Durston
St Mary's College, Twickenham

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