Memorandum submitted by the University
of East Anglia
1. The selective allocation of research
funds based on the assessment of research quality at departmental
level has played a critical part in increasing the research performance
in UK HEIs and should continue for a further period. The RAE has
focused the minds of some of the most talented people in the UK
on improving quality of their research and publications. It is
to be expected that this strong focus would improve and continue
to improve research quality.
2. As discussed in the HEFCs review of research
policy and funding, the various methods for assessing research
all have their flaws. This includes the current RAE process which
is very time intensive. The strengths of the current RAE process
however are that it is peer review focused, it is an assessment
of individual departments and the overall cost of operating the
process is still small in comparison to the funds allocated as
a result (approx 1 per cent of total QR allocated).
3. We strongly support continuation of the
dual support funding mechanism for HEIs. The stream of funding
allocated through HEFCs enables HEIs to make strategic long term
plans for research. It also gives HEIs freedom to be innovative
in the direction of research and pursue new avenues of research.
4. The benefits to research performance
and competitiveness from the current selective system would be
undermined if funds to reward improvements in research performance
were not forthcoming. For example, the ability of highly rated
departments in HEIs to compete internationally, retain academic
staff in the UK etc would be reduced if appropriate levels of
funding were not available.
5. The mechanisms for assessment and funding
should enable dynamism, ie for new subjects to emerge and for
institutions to develop their research excellence or receive less
funding if their research excellence declines. Thus whilst funds
should continue to be allocated on a selective basis, that selectivity
should not be so steep as to create a lack of competition that
results in some HEIs receiving research funds from past glories
rather than current achievements.
6. Additional ear-marked funding from HEFCs
for research infrastructure in all subject areas is needed.
7. Given the partial development of specific
project support for the arts and humanities, the research assessment
process and selective allocation of research funds is of particular
importance to arts and humanities subjects.
8. As circumstances change within the UK
HEI sector, we support the case for reviewing alternative methods
for assessing departmental research and selectively allocating
research funds on their merits.
Professor Graham Bentham