THE CALLS in the national press to concentrate research funding in a small number of institutions must be resisted if the quality of degrees for the majority of undergraduates is to be maintained.
In my own subject area of psychology, all university departments which entered the RAE achieved at least a 2 rating. Across these 70 psychology departments there were 1,150 active researchers. All psychology departments are therefore supporting some research of national significance. Considering the range of applications of psychology this level of activity seems justified. Any lecturer who aspires to teach well knows how essential it is to be at the cutting edge of one's discipline. Our students could be the professionals of tomorrow and they need to know what the key issues are now, not when the last text-book was written.
Compared to some subject areas psychological research is cheap. The main difference between a high and low-rated department is likely to be in who actually carries out the data collection. Highly-rated departments will be able to afford research assistants and students, and the volume of research will be greater.
While some selectivity is inevitable, total exclusion of some departments is neither desirable, fair or honest. All psychology departments recognise the importance of supporting some research. The department at Luton has only existed for three years and yet was judged by the panel to be supporting some research of national significance. To deny new departments such as ours even a token of support is bad for the discipline and bad for our students. It is time we stood out against the idea that a university can be "teaching only". How can lecturers who cease to engage actively with their discipline hope to inspire their students to carry out research?
Tony Ward Senior lecturer in psychology
University of Luton