THES reporters examine the fall-out from the research assessment exercise now that funding weightings are known
FUNDING weightings attached to grades awarded in the latest research assessment exercise have had a mixed response.
Some university heads condemned the Higher Education Funding Council for England's decision to cut 1 and 2-rated departments out of a share of Pounds 680 million RAE-based funding. Others suggested that greater selectivity would not necessarily mean less money for most institutions.
Those with many top-ratings generally supported the award of a quality value of 4.05 for 5-star departments, even though this was just 0.05 more than 5s got last time.
Rodney Eastwood, planning director at Imperial College, which was among the top-performing institutions in the 1996 RAE, thought the funding council had "rewarded the best without suffocating the rest".
But there was less satisfaction elsewhere. Many institutions with a relatively high number of grade 2 departments appear to be pinning their hopes on a funding initiative designed to replace Dev-R. This will involve the funding council earmarking funds, expected to amount to around Pounds 8 million, to encourage collaboration between low and higher rated departments.
Tony Wood, vice chancellor of Luton University, said the Dev-R replacement was the only way institutions like his own, which had improved their research performance but were still in the lower to middle rankings, could hope to gain financially.
"We find it very depressing to discover that while we think we have done well to achieve several 2s and 3bs after just three years of developing our research base, we can expect little reward. It is grossly unfair," he said.
Brian Booth, vice chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire, said while his institution had made some of the greatest improvements since the 1992 RAE, its allocations from the latest exercise were unlikely to be much higher.
"The funding allocations for research will demonstrate that the HEFCE has little regard for quality improvement or value added," he said.
Gilbert Smith, vice chancellor of the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, agreed with the "broad thrust" of HEFCE's decisions, but thought the Dev-R replacement would be crucial to support new areas of research.
"It is important not to focus too narrowly on established centres of research," he said.
John Tarrant, vice chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, said he was satisfied that the "level of discrimination" between the top and bottom funding points had not widened compared with the last RAE.