REF? Change the subject

March 10, 2011

At last week's meeting of University College London's academic board, the head of the School of Life and Medical Sciences delivered an oral report introducing proposed changes to its organisational structure.

In the course of the report, he commented that the reorganisation has a key advantage: the new units into which the school is to be divided fit with the research excellence framework's units of assessment.

In the question-and-answer session that followed, I asked him whether this was a 100 per cent happy coincidence or evidence of the REF's growing influence on the university's institutional structure. He replied that this outcome had not been his prime consideration in the restructuring.

I interjected that I had not asked him if it was his prime consideration, but whether it was his consideration to any degree. He replied (or rather repeated) that it was an advantage. Before I could draw breath to interject again, the provost, who chairs the meetings - most effectively - quickly called the next questioner. Clearly this is a sensitive subject.

Hugh Goodacre, Member of the academic board, University College London

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