The key: 2001 research assessment exercise

December 14, 2001

Academic prestige and the prospect of more money are the rewards for a good performance in this year's research assessment exercise.

The results are used to fund the best research selectively. Between them, the funding councils allocate some £1 billion of public funding each year using the RAE results. Universities use the money to lever further grants and contracts from research councils, industries and charities.

Opposite is a league table that shows which institutions performed best in this year's exercise. Institutions are ranked according to the average score per member of staff submitted, from one for a 1 rating to seven for a 5*. The total number of points for each institution was then divided by the number of research-active staff.

The table has been split into two, to distinguish between diverse institutions and specialist centres. If an institution submitted to more than one of the discipline-based units of assessment, then it appears in the first part of the table; if it made one submission, then it appears in the second part of the table.

The following pages show the results for each institution by unit of assessment. English universities and colleges appear first, in alphabetical order, followed by Scottish and Welsh institutions and those in Northern Ireland.

The first column gives the 2001 result. A top rating of 5* shows that the research assessed is of a quality that equates to attainable levels of international excellence in more than half of the research activity submitted and attainable levels of national excellence in the remainder. A rating of 5 indicates quality that equates to attainable levels of international excellence in up to half of the research activity submitted and to attainable levels of national excellence in virtually all of the remainder.

A rating of 4 demonstrates quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in virtually all of the research activity submitted, showing some evidence of international excellence. A rating of 3a displays quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in over two-thirds of the research activity submitted, possibly showing evidence of international excellence. A rating of 3b exhibits quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in more than half of the research activity submitted.

A rating of 2 shows quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in up to half of the research activity submitted. A rating of 1 indicates quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in none, or virtually none, of the research activity submitted.

At present, the funding councils give half as much money again for each improvement in grades. Grades 1 and 2 are unfunded; a 3b gets a funding weight of 1; a 3a gets 1.5; a 4 gets 2.25; a 5 gets 3.375; and a 5* gets a smaller premium of 4.05.

The second column shows the 1996 grades, for comparison. In some cases, comparisons are not exact. For example, biochemistry no longer exists as a separate unit of assessment. Where it appears as a biochemistry submission within another unit of assessment, the 1996 grade is used for comparison. Some institutions have also made a multiple submission to a unit of assessment while, in 1996, only a single submission was made. In these cases, the 1996 figure has been copied across the multiple submission.

Conversely, some institutions have made a single submission while, in 1996, a multiple submission was made. In these cases, all the 1996 figures are shown for comparison. Where no submission was made in 1996, this is indicated by n/a.

The third column shows the proportion of staff selected for assessment. An A indicates that at least 95 per cent of a department's staff were included in the research submission. A B means 80 to 94 per cent; a C 60 to 79 per cent; a D 40 to 59 per cent; an E 20 to 39 per cent; and an F less than 20 per cent.

The fourth column shows the full-time equivalent number of staff submitted to the exercise, for which the census date was March 31. The funding council measures the volume of research being done in each unit of assessment by taking into account the number of people working as: research-active academic staff; research assistants; research fellows; and postgraduate research students. These totals are weighted so that one member of staff is equivalent to ten research assistants or research fellows.

The funding council also uses the research income from charity to calculate an approximate figure for the number of people employed on this income stream.

The results are shown by unit of assessment. There are 68 units of assessment, beginning with medicine and biological science, going through the physical sciences and engineering, the social sciences, languages and the arts. Each subject is assigned to one of three cost weights: high-cost laboratory and clinical subjects; intermediate cost subjects; and others. The weights are 1.7, 1.3 and 1 respectively.

The funding councils calculate how much money to give each institution based on: the RAE result; how many staff were deemed research active; and the discipline base of the unit of assessment. Some institutions pass this money directly to the department that generated it while others top-slice the money or use it more strategically.

A graphical representation of the outcome for each institution appears after the listings of results. The graphs show the performance of each institution entered in the exercise, with its research intensiveness and size.

The bar charts show the percentage of research-active staff that works in each of the seven ratings. The pie charts show the percentage of staff that was submitted to the exercise. These diagrams also give the total number of academic staff for each institution.

RAE 2001 league tables

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  • The complete tables, complied by The THES

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