RAEs spread despondency

May 23, 1997

STRESS among academics has grown and universities are losing their collegiate feel as a result of the research assessment exercise, a report on the last two exercises has found.

Deadlines for research, longer working hours, the need to juggle different activities and emphasis on individual performance have all turned up the heat, according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England report.

Efforts to recruit and retain research staff have benefited strong researchers but not strong teachers, with some teaching posts being casualised to allow permanent staff to concentrate on research.

"The impact on the morale of those who are not returned in the exercise, yet who were recruited and perceive themselves to be teachers and researchers, may be profound," the report commented.

A survey of staff had shown stress levels were highest among those feeling least valued. They were worst among women staff and staff in departments rated 3 in 1992. Emphasis on future research was marginalising older staff, often pushing them into teaching, while money was no longer available for early retirements.

New universities and colleges of higher education also felt left out because their staff were unfamiliar with the exercise and had fewer links with higher education funding bodies and research councils. They felt work-related research was not given proper recognition.

Drawing on work by Ian McNay, head of the centre for higher education management at Anglia Polytechnic University, together with a study by Segal Quince Wicksteed on the HEFCE's policy of selectivity, the council concludes that RAEs have helped improve the quality of research overall.

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