LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
Accuracy of the RAE results
1. With such a spectacular increase in
RAE ratings, it is legitimate to ask whether the improvement is
a true reflection of the state of UK academic research and its
performance over the last five years. The evidence we have received
suggests that most in the science and education communities agree
with HEFCE's assertion that it is largely a reflection of reality
2. There is concern about the non-inclusion
of researchers. ... Funding should reflect the actual amount of
research and its quality over the whole department and not those
deemed active. Universities should have no incentive to omit any
researchers (paragraph 24).
3. There is concern that by moving researchers
between UoAs or splitting and merging departments universities
can improve ratings without any improvement in quality (paragraph
4. There is concern that transfers between
institutions can distort the RAE results (paragraph 27).
5. There are concerns about the way the panels
operated and their membership (paragraph 28).
6. We recommend that, in any future RAE, HEFCE
provide panel members with more effective administrative support.
Ensuring the validity of the results is money well spent (paragraph
7. With the above reservations, we accept
the widespread view that the RAE ratings reflect an improvement
in UK higher education research (paragraph 31).
Effects of the RAE
8. Most of the evidence we have received
has suggested that the RAE has had a broadly beneficial effect
on research in the UK (paragraph 32).
9. We have heard of concerns that the RAE
has imposed large costs and bureaucracy on universities, hampered
teaching, distorted research practice, led to neglect of universities'
other activities and severely damaged academics' morale (paragraph
10. If HEFCE believes in the value of the
RAE, it should establish clearly how much it costs and show why
it is worth it. We recommend that, as part of its review of the
RAE, HEFCE establish with accuracy the cost of RAE 2001 and publish
costings and an explanation of how these were calculated (paragraph
11. The RAE has undoubtedly brought benefits
but it has also caused collateral damage. It has damaged staff
careers and it has distracted universities from their teaching,
community and economic development roles. Higher education should
encourage excellence in all these areas, not just in research.
Universities should be assessed on a balanced score-card (paragraph
12. Some of the most outstanding achievements
in UK science have resulted from long periods of research with
no outputs ... We are concerned that the RAE process may discourage
long-term research of a highly speculative nature and stifle scientific
breakthroughs (paragraph 37).
13. While we accept that publication practice
is somewhat different in the humanities, we believe that the shorter
period of assessment for the sciences discriminates against scientists
involved in long-term research. We suggest that seven years would
be a more reasonable period of assessment for the sciences as
well as the humanities (paragraph 38).
14. We recommend that HEFCE ensure that its
quality assessment does not discourage or disadvantage interdisciplinary
research. Such research offers some of the most fertile ground
for innovation and discovery (paragraph 39).
15. We recommend that HEFCE keep unit boundaries
under review to ensure that subjects of increasing importance
are fairly assessed (paragraph 40).
Morale and careers
16. It is clear that the RAE has had a
negative effect on university staff morale. Any future research
assessment mechanism must be able to give a fair appraisal of
the research without tempting universities to continue the divisive
and demoralising practice of excluding some academics from the
process (paragraph 41).
17. We welcome HEFCE's imminent research project
into women in higher education research and recommend that it
should analyse RAE data as part of this study. It is vital that
women's research careers are not further impeded (paragraph 42).
18. The RAE may not be the primary cause
of departmental closures [in science and engineering] but we suspect
that it is a contributory factor. Nationally important research
that makes a major contribution to the economy must not be destroyed
because of trends in student demand (paragraph 44).
19. In our view, it is better to address national
research priorities through a funding mechanism rather than by
tinkering with the assessment process. HEFCE should protect or
enhance key research areas by changing the cost weightings for
some UoAs or by introducing ringfenced funding (paragraph
Neglect of teaching and other university activities
20. The RAE, and the funding decisions
based on it, create incentives for universities that could lead
to them neglecting other areas of their functions: teaching; community
involvement; commercial activity; and research of local or regional
significance. This may have major implications for the nature
of UK universities (paragraph 46).
21. It is not for the RAE to reward teaching,
but there must be a counter-incentive to promote good teaching
and encourage good teachers. We believe that there must be financial
incentives for improving the quality of teaching but that the
burden and the problems of measuring teaching quality are such
that funding based on it should be a last resort. HEFCE and universities
must work together to provide well-paid and prestigious career
positions for academics who are primarily teachers (paragraph
22. We are supportive of high-quality teaching
in a high-quality research environment and find it hard to see
how this can be reconciled with the concept of a teaching-only
university (paragraph 51).
23. If the best researchers are concentrated
in a small number of departments, we risk losing the next generation
of scientists. At a time when the Government is concerned about
the supply of scientists in the economy, HEFCE should be encouraging
high-quality research wherever there is teaching (paragraph 52).
24. We are concerned that the pressures placed
on academics, not least through the RAE, make community involvement
less likely (paragraph 53).
25. We recommend that, in its review of
the RAE, HEFCE consider the impact of the RAE on knowledge transfer
activity, and investigate whether panels have accorded due status
to industrial research outputs. The Government wishes to encourage
industrial collaboration and the commercialisation of research
and HEFCE must ensure that the RAE does not undermine this (paragraph
26. The Government may need to intervene to
ensure that research excellence is represented in the regions
of the UK, perhaps by encouraging regional networks in important
subjects (paragraph 55).
27. Research into matters of local importance
can be vital to communities and the economy. If the RAE cannot
recognise such work a mechanism needs to be identified that will
28. HEFCE should monitor levels of investment
in infrastructure carefully and if necessary introduce a recurrent
funding stream (paragraph 57).
Funding the RAE
29. We believe that HEFCE was right to
use RAE 2001 [to determine the research funding for 2003-03]:
if you have a selective mechanism for funding it should reflect
the current state of research. But we take issue with the way
the cake was cut (paragraph 69).
30. We recommend that the Government introduce
and resource a seedcorn fund to stimulate the development of research
in new departments, as part of a strategic framework for research
funding (paragraph 71).
31. We recommend that HEFCE introduce a more
sophisticated weighting system which accurately reflects the high
costs of research in certain scientific subjects (paragraph 73).
32. In their evidence to us, HEFCE seemed
to believe that any side effects of the RAE were unfortunate and
somehow nothing to do with them. If HEFCE has a mechanism for
selective research funding then it must take responsibility for
any distortions it causes (paragraph 58).
33. While HEFCE cannot be blamed for the level
of funding that is available for higher education research, it
must bear primary responsibility for the way the RAE funding deficit
has been handled (paragraph 74).
34. Some responsibility for the funding decisions
must lie with the DfES and with the Minister for Lifelong Learning
and Higher Education. .... The RAE and the funding decisions based
on it have major repercussions for the higher education system.
We find it hard to believe that the Minister is prepared to delegate
all of that power to an unelected quango. It cannot be in the
public interest that she should do so (paragraph 75).
35. The DfES must also bear responsibility
for the financial dilemma which HEFCE has been facing. ... We
appreciate that the Government has a number of priorities in education,
but it must not lose sight of the need to maintain and develop
an excellent research base. We welcome the Minister's commitment
to fight for a generous settlement for higher education in the
Spending Review (paragraph 76).
36. We fully accept that higher education
is the responsibility of DfES, not of DTI, but we would suggest
that the Cabinet Minister for Science should take a closer interest
in the RAE and in the funding of higher education research, since
it is vitally important to the future of science and technology
in the UK (paragraph 77).
37. Discussions about the mechanism for
the allocation for research funding are largely meaningless unless
the under-funding of university research is addressed. ... There
is a strong case for a substantial increase in the HE research
budget. This should not be less than the £200 million a year
required to fund RAE 2001 using the formula employed until recently
and to restore the project funding/QR ratio to 1993-94 levels.
Borne in mind should be the chronic under-funding in university
research for much longer than this (paragraph 78).
38. We welcome the science and research cross-cutting
review and trust that it will spell out clearly for the Treasury
the value of science and engineering research and its present
parlous state of under-funding ... UK university research is already
among the best in the world without the funding it deserves. The
Spending Review 2000 brought great benefits for the Science Budget.
Now has come the time to put right the imbalance in the dual support
system by delivering a significant increase in funding for higher
education research (paragraph 79).
Options for the future
39. It is generally agreed that the RAE
has achieved all it can in its present form. The question is whether
we abandon it completely or whether it could form part of a broader
funding mechanism for higher education research (paragraph 80).
40. We are not persuaded that research assessment
should rely entirely on success in obtaining Research Council
grants (paragraph 82).
41. It is generally agreed that there is a
future for the RAE, but not in its current form. We need an RAE
with a lighter touch (paragraph 83).
42. We recommend that the RAE should take
place every six years, with interim assessment as requested by
developing departments or as considered necessary by HEFCE (paragraph
43. We believe that the RAE should continue
but only as a part of a broader higher education research funding
strategy in which its side effects and disadvantages are offset
by other mechanisms. We suggest the following model for discussion.
HEFCE's research budget could be divided into four sections -
(1) Funding excellence. Top-rated
departments would be exempted from the formal research assessment
process if they wish [and funded on their ability to attract external
(2) Promoting new centres of excellence.
Other departments could continue to take part in a research assessment
(3) Developing research capacity.
Departments taking part in the research assessment process could
apply for development money through a bidding process and would
be assessed by subject panels based upon the RAE UoAs.
(4) Fostering external collaborative
research. This fund would support the indirect costs
of institutions attracting external project funding [for departments
entering the formal assessment process] (paragraph 86).
44. This model of research funding could operate
within a broader system of higher education funding which provides
incentives for excellence in all areas of universities' activities:
teaching, community and economic involvement as well as research.
The aim should be to produce a coherent funding system, with a
small number of flexible funds (paragraph 88).
45. No doubt the Funding Councils' review
of the RAE will consider a range of options for the future. We
await its outcome with great interest, since it will have important
implications for the future of science and technology in the UK.
An effective funding mechanism for research infrastructure will
be crucial if we are to maintain and enhance the UK's research
excellence and exploit it successfully. It is essential that DfES,
the Funding Councils, the devolved administrations, OST and the
Research Councils work closely together to ensure that the funding
to the science base is coherent and adequate to maintain the quality
of UK research. We shall follow developments closely and, if necessary,
report again to the House (paragraph 89).
Debate in the House of Commons
46. We suggest the following motion for
debate by the House:
"That this House commends the higher
education sector for the marked improvement in research quality
demonstrated by the Research Assessment Exercise 2001; takes note
of the conclusions and recommendations in the Second Report of
the Science and Technology Committee on the Research Assessment
Exercise (HC 507); notes the concerns reflected in that Report
on the impact of the RAE on research priorities and on universities'
other functions; acknowledges the vital contribution which higher
education research in science and technology makes to society
and to the economy; and calls on the Government to fund the RAE
results fully in the forthcoming Spending Review." (paragraph