Binary divisions rear their head

January 31, 1997

THES reporters examine the fall-out from the research assessment exercise now that funding weightings are known

NEW universities are moving up research ratings faster than their older counterparts but are still way behind, according to an analysis of the latest research assessment exercise.

Napier University in Edinburgh tops a table of those with most-improved ratings, while the most-improved "old university", Salford, comes in at only 16.

But Mark Baimbridge, lecturer in social and economic studies at Bradford University, found a significant binary divide persisted between pre and post-1992 universities. Sheffield Hallam was the only "new" university with an average weighted rating to rival that of pre-1992 institutions.

This means that new universities are likely to lose most in the research funding round - which could make further improvement a struggle. Mr Baimbridge said: "The new universities still account for all those in the lower categories of 2 and 3b on the new seven-point scale. The process of catch-up is far from complete."

New universities have also demonstrated the least improved ratings, with Teesside, Wolverhampton, Kingston and Coventry bringing up the rear. Exeter University is the least improved of the old universities, occupying seventh from last place.

Mr Baimbridge examined the 101 institutions with membership of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, except for the University of Central England in Birmingham, which did not take part in the 1992 RAE.

He ranked each according to the percentage change in their ratings between 1992 and 1996, rescaling the average score to take account of a switch from a five-point to seven-point grading system.

While he found Napier University had improved by 78 per cent, the University of Glamorgan by 65 per cent and Nottingham Trent by 45 per cent, Oxford, which topped The THES league this year, had just a 2.02 per cent improvement. Cambridge had actually declined by 3.82 per cent.

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