Lancaster produces alternative RAE 2008 rankings

Institutions’ selectivity in submitting staff to research assessment exercise should be taken into account, says 1994 Group member

December 19, 2008

The University of Lancaster has produced its own research assessment exercise results league table, which takes into account how selective institutions have been in choosing staff to have their work judged.

The move indicates how determined some universities are to have their “research intensity” recognised, after the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) was unable to provide alongside this week’s RAE results figures that would have shown the proportion of research-active staff each university had excluded from the RAE. The results would have exposed institutions that had hidden weak researchers from scrutiny.

On the alternative league table it devised, Lancaster, a member of the 1994 Group of smaller research-intensive institutions, occupies ninth position when specialist institutions are excluded. The universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Bristol also move up.

The new ranking exercise comes as a number of institutions are now choosing to reveal how selective they have been.

In a statement on the University of Oxford’s RAE results, John Hood, the vice-chancellor, said the university had submitted “over 85 per cent” of its academics for assessment (http://tinyurl.com/4kuj5h).

Meanwhile, the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, said it had entered “a little over 92 per cent” of its eligible staff ( http://tinyurl.com/3qrpew). It said it revealed the figure because “league-table compilers have given data that includes teaching-only staff, thereby reducing our figure to 65 per cent”.

Brian Cantor, vice-chancellor of the University of York, argued strongly for the inclusion of the “intensity” measure in the run-up to the release of the results in Times Higher Education. He revealed that York had a 91 per cent staff submission rate in the 2008 RAE.

The Times Higher Education Table of Excellence presents contextual information on the indicative proportion of RAE-eligible staff submitted for assessment by institutions, but does not use it in devising rankings.

The figure is calculated by dividing the total number of staff that an institution submits to the RAE by the number of academic staff at the institution within the grades “professors”, “senior lecturers and researchers” and “lecturers”, according to the latest published data available from Hesa. Times Higher Education has also provided detailed caveats on how the data should be interpreted.

Lancaster’s table presents the same information on the indicative proportion of RAE-eligible staff submitted as the Times Higher Education’s table, but takes the process a step further by multiplying the figure by universities’ average scores to get a “modified” average score, which it then uses to rank institutions.

In Lancaster’s table, institutions in which the indicative proportion of RAE-eligible staff submitted is greater than 100 per cent (including Lancaster) are capped at 100 per cent, although Lancaster noted that its actual submission rate was 90 per cent.

“It is an issue of transparency,” Paul Graves, Lancaster’s director of governance and planning, told Times Higher Education. “We accept that there are a variety of ways that submission rates might be interpreted or used, but we think it an important principle that the RAE results should [include them].”

Further figures indicating how selective some 20 universities were in submitting staff are also known from surveys conducted by Times Higher Education in late 2007.

Among research-intensive universities, submission levels are known for Royal Holloway, University of London (where 91 per cent of eligible staff were submitted) and the University of Sussex (86 per cent).

Among the teaching-intensive universities, final submission figures are known for the University of Chichester (18.5 per cent), Thames Valley University (11 per cent), Keele University (about 50 per cent), Canterbury Christ Church University (16 per cent), Northumbria University (18 per cent), Glasgow Caledonian University (25 per cent), City University London (62 per cent), the University of Salford (45 per cent), Manchester Metropolitan University (31 per cent) and the University of Wolverhampton (18 per cent).

Planned submission rates were provided to Times Higher Education by Oxford Brookes University (33 per cent), Birmingham City University (11 per cent), Kingston University (26 per cent), the University of Derby (9 per cent), Brunel University (87 per cent), the University of Lincoln (35-40 per cent) and the University of Plymouth (40-50 per cent).

But greatest interest is focused on the top of the table, with many in the sector keen to know whether the larger research-intensive institutions have been more or less selective than their smaller counterparts in who they submitted to the RAE.

The University of Lancaster’s league table can be viewed at:

http://tinyurl.com/3mux8w

Previous Times Higher Education stories on the proportion of staff submitted:

Exclusions from RAE see steep rise

Teaching institutions draw on smaller cohort for RAE

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