RAE scales tipped to unbalance humanities 2

March 19, 2009

Paul Whiteley argues that Hefce ignored the results of the RAE in allocating funding for 2009-10 (Letters, 12 March). He cites a lack of correlation between the average RAE score and the change in funding from 2008-09 and blames this on the decision to allocate an increase in funding to science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

The real reason for the lack of correlation is that Whiteley is comparing the RAE results to the small differences in funding between 2008-09 and 2009-10, not to the total funding of universities for 2009-10.

Whiteley also suggests that results from different subject panels can be compared. His contention is that the RAE score should determine funding without reference to research costs, economic benefit or other issues. The RAE literature expressly indicated that scores from different subject panels should not be used as the basis for determining funding levels for different subjects, as different panels were marked on different scales. For example, the RAE average percentage activity at 3* or 4* level for the 1,686 staff in physics departments is 53 per cent, while the percentage for the 1,0 staff in politics and international studies departments is 35 per cent. My guess is that Whiteley would not be happy with physics departments getting more than twice the funding of politics or government departments based on this statistic.

Greg Tallents, University of York.

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