Union backs call to pull Scotland out of RAE

April 10, 2008

The Scottish Government is being urged to withdraw universities from the "educationally damaging" research assessment exercise, which is accused of undermining Scotland's new models of co-operative research.

The University and College Union Scotland voted unanimously at its annual congress last week to call for a more "equitable" funding method that would stimulate research in all Scottish universities.

Scotland has a number of pioneering "research pooling" initiatives, bringing together expertise in different institutions to collaborate on research projects with the aim of creating the critical mass needed for world-leading research.

Terry Wrigley of the University Edinburgh UCU said: "The RAE leads to damaging hierarchical divisions between universities, and an unbalanced concentration of funding."

The congress argued that the RAE had a detrimental effect on both winners and losers, skewing research to a narrow range of publications at the expense of research that could make a stronger contribution to knowledge, society and the economy.

Mr Wrigley claimed that one leading Scottish researcher had been instructed to stop publishing a book a year and to write, instead, four articles for top-rated journals that have an average "seven and a half" readers.

He acknowledged that the RAE was set to disappear after this year, but warned that its impact would continue under its replacement, the research excellence framework.

"There are issues here about how we spend our time," he said. "Although this motion is very opportune in terms of the political climate in Scotland, I think it will have resonance across the UK."

olga.wojtas@tsleducation.com.

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