REF casts a shadow over teddy bears' picnic

When the 2014 research excellence framework was being devised to take into account real-world impact, relocating a long-established university nursery to make way for such research was probably not what its designers had in mind.

June 28, 2012

However, that appears to be the case for the Uni-Tots nursery, which has been housed in the University of Edinburgh’s psychology department for 40 years.

A letter from Frank Gribben, registrar of the College of Humanities and Social Science, says the space is “urgently required” by the department in part because of the “potential impact on success in the Research Exercise Framework (REF) [sic] and these developments are now pressing”.

It says nursery provision will be moved to the university’s King’s Buildings, about two miles south of the city centre and the current site.

Iulia Toch, who has a child at Uni-Tots, expressed concerns about the extra travel and quality. “They are planning to have a bigger nursery, whereas this one has 20 to 30 [children], which makes [for] a very good educational environment.”

The REF will score projects on their real-world “impact”, which can include “improved access to…opportunities (including employment and education)”.

Edinburgh, which would not comment on the letter, stressed that there had been no decision on Uni-Tots and that any change would be to take in more children and to “accommodate a growing and thriving Psychology Department”, not the REF.

“The demands of the Research Excellence Framework exercise will not impact on the future of Uni-Tots,” a spokesman said.

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