John Sizer of SHEFC wants to know if there is a case for treating the same research rankings differently depending on the subject. But he has not told us what the funding councils are doing to ensure that identical rankings in different subjects actually mean the same thing. In the 1992 exercise there were substantial variations in ranking across subjects (eg in the proportion of 5s given), just as there have long been great differences in the proportion of first-class degrees awarded in different subjects.
If the funding councils are not going to impose a curve on the rankings, or to tell panels that the sum of their rankings must lie within a certain range, or some similar method, then it is meaningless to ask us to decide in principle whether a 2 in Egyptology should be treated in the same way as a 2 in engineering. There is no way of knowing whether the two cases are comparable.
Department of history University of Southampton