CBI call to replace 'costly' RAE

January 14, 2000

Captains of industry have called for a radical overhaul of the research assessment exercise.

The RAE's method of assessing and grading departments should be replaced with one that focuses instead on research groups aiming to meet a wide range of performance targets, says the Confederation of British Industry.

The research groups could be multidisciplinary with members based not only in different departments, but also different institutions - thus helping to dispense with the "football league transfer" mentality of the RAE.

In its response to the funding councils' review of the RAE, the CBI says such groups should be assessed against international standards of excellence and against a wide range of criteria that might include potential, relationship with teaching or with industry, or relevance to national plans, as well as research quality and output.

The CBI condemns the RAE as "a costly and burdensome process that drives behaviours and cultures within the higher education sector". It "creates a counterproductive tension between research and other activities in UK universities" and "has done little to encourage the higher education sector to engage with industry".

Rather than just a review of the RAE, the CBI would prefer to see a more radical look at all funding policies for higher education, covering teaching and training as well as research.

It calls for government departments, higher education institutions and agencies, funding and research councils, industry and professional bodies, to develop a national strategy for research that would encourage more targeted funding.

This could identify where the United Kingdom should develop areas of expertise, and the extent to which it could or should become a leading international player.

The volume of resources directed to each field of research should be assessed, with a view to identifying the optimum number of research groups that should be publicly funded in each area, the submission paper suggests.

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