The Higher Education Funding Council for England is shying away from demanding that academic departments submit a minimum proportion of researchers for top ratings in the research assessment exercise. This would leave rules for achieving the top research ratings in English universities unchanged.
The Department for Education and Employment asked HEFCE to consider the proposal in its annual allocation letter to the funding council. But the other bodies that run the RAE - the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department of Education in Northern Ireland - were not asked to consider the idea. "We would like a rule for all, as the RAE is a UK-wide exercise," said John Rogers, RAE manager at HEFCE.
An earlier consultation by the funding councils had revealed that three-quarters of respondents were against the idea that a department should submit a minimum proportion of staff to gain five or five-star grades. HEFCE itself is concerned about the proposal. "We think it will encourage rather than discourage game-playing," Mr Rogers said.
HEFCE has agreed to develop a code of practice that it believes will address the DFEE's concerns about the RAE.
Work on the code of practice will not begin in earnest for another year and it will be sent out for consultation before it is agreed.