Research equality

March 17, 2000

Christopher Bluth's spirited defence of the research assessment exercise (Letters, THES, March 10) would be more convincing if universities were competing on a level playing field.

Let us suppose the following: that newer universities are less well endowed than older ones and so less able to fund research; that their research activities are less well established and more vulnerable to problems; that they employ a relatively large number of casual staff, of whom most are female, and also attract a disproportionate number of mature students; and that their students are comparatively immobile because of poverty and family ties. Then consider the impact of these British Academy/Arts and Humanities Research Board rules: that over-35s may not be eligible for major research grants unless they hold formal positions at or with a university and can obtain equivalent amounts of funding from that university; that independent researchers will not receive major research grants if they are much over 30; and that postgraduates are unlikely to be granted funding to conduct research in departments with an unsatisfactory research track record.

Anyone care to demonstrate that, any or all these assumptions being correct, newer universities and their staff are as likely to be eligible for arts research funding grants as older universities and those working or studying in them?

Penny Tucker Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

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