Big three boast most RAE judges

May 13, 2005

Redbrick institutions dominate the 2008 review panels. Anthea Lipsett reports.

Manchester has joined Oxford and Cambridge as the universities with the most judges for the next research assessment exercise.

About one in six will come from these institutions. Their job will be to rate the research quality of university departments across the country in 2008.

The higher education funding councils this week announced the names of those who have formally accepted the invitation to serve on the main and the sub-panels. On the list are more than 800 academics and some 80 non-academics, who were invited to bring the perspective of research "users" to the deliberations that determine ratings and billions of pounds of research grants.

Of more than 900 judges selected to assess research, Oxford has 58 members on panels and Cambridge 51 - ranging across disciplines from cardiovascular medicine to Italian.

Manchester, which has merged with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology since the last assessment in 2001, pips Cambridge with 52 members of its academic staff on panels.

But the other institutions in the "golden triangle" of research fall well short of this number. Imperial College London has 36 academics on panels and University College London, 34.

Most panel members are from traditional redbrick research universities.

Sheffield University counts 39 members, Bristol University, 36, Glasgow University, 33, and Cardiff University, 32.

New universities have a total of 53 panel members between them.

The sub-panels carry out the core work of the RAE in assessing submitted research and making recommendations to the main panels on the "quality profiles" to award for each departmental submission.

They form part of a new two-tier structure for the 2008 RAE. Each of the 67 sub-panels is part of one of 15 main panels that cover the full range of research across all subject areas.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England was keen to emphasise the involvement of roughly 80 non-academic members. These include people from industry, research councils and institutes, and public institutions including the Medical Research Council, Rolls-Royce, The British Library and Cancer Research UK.

The last few main panels were holding their second round of meetings, said Ed Hughes, the manager of RAE 2008.

A third round of meetings of both main panels and sub-panels is planned for October or November. These will discuss responses to the draft criteria for assessing research that sub-panels will set out for consultation on the RAE website from July 16 to September 19. The criteria will be finalised by the end of the year.

The specific measures adopted by panels would cover all types of research, including practice-based, applied, basic and interdisciplinary, he said.

The sub-panel members and chairs were appointed from nearly 5,000 nominations by just fewer than 1,400 bodies - including subject associations, professional and practitioner bodies, commercial organisations and other stakeholders.

The funding council chief executives chose panel members, taking account of the weight of nominations and advice from the relevant sub-panel and main panel chairs. Mr Hughes said the key was to ensure that each sub-panel held the collective expertise appropriate for the subject and that the overall body of members reflected the diversity of the UK research community.

"We are fortunate to have been able to appoint individuals, including users of research, who have the respect of the academic and wider research community, extensive research experience and a good understanding of the needs of research users and commissioners of research from both the public and commercial sectors," he said.

The funding councils are inviting international and additional members to join the main panels, a process that should be complete before the final round of criteria-setting meetings this autumn.

The full list of panel members can be found at  

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