Malignancy of the RAE

November 13, 1998

Government and the funding councils should recognise that their initiatives for improving teaching and courses, access and employment-related skills will have no significant impact on higher education unless the negative impacts of the research assessment exercise are coherently addressed.

David Blunkett, in discussing research policy, warned the new universities against feeling that they had to "ape and emulate other universities." (THES, "Message from the ministry", November 6). Yet in the same issue we read of a growing momentum of an RAE 2001-determined transfer market; and that the University of East Anglia is to make five more appointments in chemical sciences "partly funded through money put aside centrally for investment" to seek a higher RAE grade.

The preoccupation with RAE grades is not just a feature of some wayward new universities. On their part it is a short-term "rational" response to how universities are funded. The Gaderene rush to 2001 is a cancer that has diseased the whole system. Radical surgery is needed to remove or isolate the RAE. What lecturers and HE institutions do not need are limited poorly funded initiatives and being blamed for the impact of centrally determined policies.

Alan Jenkins Oxford Brookes University

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