Condition improving

January 3, 1997

NURSING: LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY 1992 rating: 3 1996 rating: 3a

A rapid turn around of staff at Liverpool University's nursing department may have taken its toll in respect of research ratings. Karen Luker, head of the university's school of health sciences, was hoping the nursing school could improve on its 3 rating of 1992, but admitted there were some concerns that the school would become entrenched in the middle-ranking departments.

In the event the department scored a 3a in this year's assessment making it one of the higher scoring of the 36 nursing departments which, compared to other subjects, came right at the bottom of the table of average scores per member of staff.

She said: "In 1992 we were very pleased with the 3. We had only been going as a department for four years. This year we have been working towards a 4. I am pleased we are still near the top, with there being only one 5 and two 4s."

Professor Luker's plans for research improvements had, she said, been partly scuppered since the last research assessment exercise by a large staff turnaround - three of Liverpool's lecturers have moved to senior posts at Oxford, Manchester and York universities.

Four new appointments have been made but the department has also lost four "research inactive staff", three of whom took early retirement while one returned to the NHS. The nursing department has 12 members of staff, six of whom are HEFCE funded, while the remainder are paid for by a combination of health authorities and research charities.

But the grade obtained by nursing in the current RAE, Professor Luker fears, could mean the department being bypassed when the cash-strapped faculty makes new appointments or looks for areas of expansion.

"Departments with 4s and 5s might get priority," she said, though external validation of the nursing course does mean the university has to meet basic requirements in staff terms.

Professor Luker does not believe the grade will discourage charities and other funders of nursing based research from approaching her department.

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