THE funding councils have confirmed that the next research assessment exercise will be in 2001. But dates have to be formally settled between the different councils in England, Scotland and Wales.
Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said: "It will be in 2001 but we won't say that formally until the Scots and the Welsh have agreed."
A Higher Education Funding for Wales spokesman said: "As far as Wales is concerned, the RAE will be in 2001, but we are waiting to hear from England and Scotland."
A Scottish Higher Education Funding Council spokesman said it would discuss dates in May but assumed no earlier than 2001.
Gareth Roberts, vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, who chaired a working group discussion on the RAE at HEFCE's annual conference last week, said: "There is overwhelming support for a future RAE in 2001 along the same lines as the previous exercise but allowance that more radical changes are needed in the following exercise."
He said most vice-chancellors were now anxious to get on with arrangements for 2001 without further consultation. New universities wanted little change and most supported the idea of final submissions being in by March 31 2001, with a December 31 2000 deadline for publications. They agreed the funding council should be very clear about the relationship between ratings and funding.
Submissions to a consultation on the future of the RAE generally agreed the exercise should focus on the quality of research rather than its relevance. But they recommended that relevance should be taken into account and the definition of research should be broad.
They wanted better mechanisms for measuring interdisciplinary research and for stopping problems caused when institutions lose good researchers during the RAE.