THES reporters look at how RAE results have improved and put Hefce on the spot.
Scotland is hailing a rate of improvement that outstrips other parts of the United Kingdom.
Half of Scottish researchers now work in 5 and 5* departments, compared with 21 per cent in 1996. And 85 per cent of research is in departments rated 4 and above, as against 57 per cent in 1996. This compares with 80 per cent for the UK as a whole.
Scotland is home to less than 9 per cent of the UK's population, but it accounted for 12.2 per cent of researchers submitted across the country. Even so, the number, 5,666, was 2 per cent less than that for the previous RAE.
The best results are in biological sciences, electrical and electronic engineering and hospital-based clinical subjects.
Earlier this year, Shefc said it was unlikely to continue funding departments rated 3 if research quality continued to rise because its priority would be to protect departments rated 4 and above. Shefc will meet the enterprise and lifelong learning minister early in January to advise on funding.
A Universities Scotland spokesperson said: "This is very good news for Scotland and very good news for Scottish business. We are UK leaders in electronic engineering, biological sciences and computer science, which are all essential to the wider economy.
"The Scottish Executive has quite rightly said they want to see something for something when it comes to funding. The sector has now delivered, and we need the funding to ensure that these improvements can be sustained and exploited."
John Sizer, chief executive of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, said: "This demonstrates a platform of internationally competitive research that will be crucial to the development of a knowledge-based economy."
RAE 2001 league tables