Jobwatch: RAE Supertanker Steerer

May 21, 2004

Whoever manages the 2008 RAE will have to oversee the selection of 1,000 panel members and the processing of more than 2 million research submissions. Chris Johnston reports

One of the biggest management challenges in higher education is advertised in this week's Times Higher as funding chiefs began the search for someone to oversee the next research assessment exercise.

It might be some four and half years until the results of the next RAE are published but the Higher Education Funding Council for England is advertising for an RAE manager.

The 2008 RAE could prove to be the most contentious yet. Some departments rated 5* in the 2001 exercise could be downgraded to a 3 under a new system in which the maximum score is 4.

To have any chance of winning the high-profile post, which has a salary of up to £62,000, an applicant must be an "outstanding individual" with excellent communication, analytical and interpersonal skills and have experience of successfully managing long-term projects.

Philip Walker, Hefce spokesman, says one aim of the exercise this time around is to be as open and transparent as possible, which means that the manager needs to be in post this year.

One of the Bristol-based manager's first tasks will be to oversee the recruiting of members for the main panels and the 70 or so sub-panels that will advise them on the quality of work submitted in each area. Nominations open in July and about 1,000 panellists will be announced in November.

Another vital task will be setting up the administrative structure that will record the decisions made by panels during their eight or so meetings each. As much data as possible will be exchanged electronically, Walker says, but a huge paper trail will nevertheless be created.

John Rogers, assistant academic registrar at Manchester University, held the position for the last exercise. He had to organise the sending of 2 million photocopies of research work to assessment panels and attending more than 300 panel and sub-panel meetings in the summer of 2001.

After the 2001 RAE was over, Dr Rogers reflected on his experience: "It has been the strangest of years: deeply frustrating and exhausting at times, yet immensely satisfying and rewarding."

The final criteria and working methods for the next RAE will be announced in November 2005. Submissions close on November 30 2007 and the results will be published in December 2008.

The RAE manager will report to the heads of the four higher education funding councils and must be able to explain the process simply to them.

Applications for the job close on June 2 and interviews will be held a week later.

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