Failure to get 5 costs £250,000

December 14, 2001

We visited six departments before today's results were announced to find out how they were preparing for the RAE.

Oxford University: Geography
1996:4, 2001: 4
Staff: 36 (full-time equivalent)

The news that geography at Oxford University has got only a 4 in the RAE could mean the loss in expected income of at least £250,000 for the department.

It will now have to cope with a deficit for the foreseeable future. Oxford has just brought in a new accounting system and governance structure, and each department now controls its own budget.

Head of department Colin Clarke was hoping for at least a 5, which would have meant the department could have worked its way back to solvency.

In 1996, the department was also awarded a 4 and immediately went into a period of intense activity. Professor Clarke, who took over the department following the RAE result, describes the experience as a "rude shock". It was the first time the department had dropped a point, and it was felt that its excellent teaching ratings had been achieved at the expense of research.

The university brought forward its review of geography by two years. It made 29 recommendations, 28 of which were implemented in just over a year, the remaining one becoming obsolete.

Research is now organised around eight clusters, ranging from arid zones to the historical geography of forests.

The department has gone from having about 29 research-active members of staff to 38. Only one full-time academic member of staff is not research-active.

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