RAE forces us to fudge

July 17, 1998

Having read two pieces on "abuse" in the research assessment exercise (THES, July 3 and July 10), I feel moved to respond. I should start by pleading guilty to being one of those "managers" in institutions who is looking at tactics to play the RAE game better. We all are - set up a system with lots of rules, and we will all look at how best to interpret those rules.

You mention moving "lower-rated" research staff to teaching fellow contracts. If that is an offence, we are guilty. But look at it from a different perspective. We have looked at a department's staff profile and at what each person can contribute to the department's work. A department has students to teach, administration to carry out and a research profile to build.

Staff are asked where they want to make their contributions. If, as is sometimes the case, they would like to concentrate on being a first-class admissions officer and providing pastoral care and teaching to students, why should they not move to a contract that reflects those responsibilities, removes the obligation to do research and puts them on a promotion path where their excellence can be recognised?

Staff will adopt different teaching loads at different times in their careers. This may mean a low load for new lecturers to give them time to do the groundwork for their research. At the other end of the scale, a very senior professor who has earned big external grant monies may also take a low load, reflecting the other contributions she is making to the department.

Decisions are taken on individual responsibilities year to year with a view to doing the best for research and the best for the students. We really do not have enough time or resources for either, so you should not be surprised when we try to make the best of those exercises designed to set institutions up in competition with one another for funding.

Louise Casella Director of planning Cardiff University

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