Union demands halt to RAE after sex discrimination case

April 21, 2000

A lecturers' union has called for an immediate halt to the research assessment exercise because of "inherent discrimination", writes Harriet Swain.

The call, from the Association of University Teachers, follows last week's tribunal ruling in favour of Helen Mercer, who was denied a job at the London School of Economics because another candidate was considered to have more rae potential.

The AUT wants all rules and procedures governing the rae at national and institutional level to be subjected to a "rigorous equal opportunities audit", overseen by the Equal Opportunities Commission.

David Triesman, AUT general secretary, said the tribunal's ruling would open the floodgates to hundreds of other similar cases.

"The next rae should take place only when the inherent discrimination in the system is rooted out," he said. "To proceed with it in its current form, ignoring the warnings of the Mercer case, would be grossly irresponsible and potentially extremely expensive."

The union argues that women who take maternity leave may be excluded from the exercise because of the effect on their research output.

A spokesman for the Higher Education Funding Council for England said the regulations for the 2001 rae made it explicit that "the situation of staff who have taken maternity leave or other career breaksI will be taken into account".

Letters, page 15

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