My sociology department has just received its result in the postgraduate training recognition exercise of the Economic and Social Research Council. In addition to telling us that we are not fit for even Mode B (despite being an amalgamation of units rated 3a and 4 in the research assessment exercise) it tells us that we will not be told in what ways our submission is deficient.
If the point of the exercise is to make the ESRC's life easier by restricting outlet numbers, such continence is probably wise. If the purpose is to raise the standard of postgraduate training, it is bizarre.
We long ago gave up grading student work without also providing advice on how it could be improved. If the ESRC wishes to live up to its mission, it should learn from the teaching quality exercises. Judgement without justification is not acceptable.
Professor of sociology University of Aberdeen
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