'Students lose out in draconian RAE plan'

March 1, 2002

The government is in danger of selling short working-class undergraduates by feeding them into "teaching factories" starved of research funding, a vice-chancellor has warned.

Ray Cowell, vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, said that new universities such as his own, which were heavily involved in widening participation while developing quality research, were being hampered financially.

Speaking after the launch of Nottingham Trent's annual report, Professor Cowell warned that "draconian selectivity" in research funding could mean a second-rate learning experience for students recruited through widening-participation initiatives.

Professor Cowell said that Nottingham Trent scored four grade 5s in last year's research assessment exercise, but most of its research was still developing and faced funding cuts of about 66 per cent under current proposals.

He said: "Those universities that are leading edge in terms of widening participation are having their research potential nipped in the bud. Yet if we are going to open up to new tranches of first-year candidates, it is important that we are offering them high-quality HE, which must include a research component."

He said: "The people who suffer will be the undergraduates who are fed into teaching factories. I want working-class kids to get the very best."

Sally Mellors, Nottingham Trent's head of widening participation, said initiatives designed to widen the social base of student intake were being held back through lack of funding.

Nottingham Trent works closely with local schools to raise awareness of opportunities in higher education.

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