Wales would have lost almost a quarter of its research funding if the UK's devolved nations had been competing equally in the last research assessment exercise, according to two Dundee University academics, writes Melanie Newman.
Lecturer Paul Seaman and professor of applied economics Monojit Chatterji say that Wales would have lost £14 million - 22 per cent of its research cash - had it not been protected from equal competition.
Although the RAE is used as a standard model for assessing research across the UK, each nation uses its results differently to allocate funds.
Funding councils set their payout level independently so that there is no competition for funds between nations.
Had the Higher Education Funding Council for England's model been used to allocate funds in a UK-wide competition in the last RAE, English universities would have gained £10 million and Scotland's £4 million, the academics found. Northern Ireland would have lost £1.1 million.
"The current system provides markedly different rates of return in the four territories, with the Welsh funding council being much more generous than the Scottish one," Professor Chatterji said. "This inequality might lead some to argue for an alternative system."
The councils will make their decisions on funding allocations after the 2008 RAE results are known.
"If the objective is value for money and paying for the best research, then the case for UK-wide competition is strong," Professor Chatterji said.
"Fair competition would wipe out research altogether at some Welsh universities, and there may be very good local and political reasons for not wanting to do that."