Memorandum submitted by the University
1. VALIDITY OF
The RAE results do represent a genuine improvement
in research performance in respect of the volume of high quality
research being undertaken in the UK. This is because of:
Better focused management of research
within UK universities. This focus is reflected in the reduction
in the number of submissions and the stability in the number of
submitted staff, combined with a very marked improvement in the
quality of research.
Improved quality of staff and opportunities
for research development in new (post-1992) university environments.
Development of research capacity
in new subjectssuch as art and design and health professions.
Expansion of the systemwith
the growth in teaching staff leading to a matched increase in
research growth as the system (especially in new universities)
retains more postdoctoral research active staff.
Strategic investment and planning
by both government (eg JIF and SRIF initiatives) and individual
universities to support both existing high quality research and
proven potential for research development.
Overall it would have been a scandalous failure
by government, the funding councils and individual universities
if UK research had not clearly improved throughout the past decade.
It should not be a matter for surprise that such improvement has
now been evidenced in the 2001 RAE just as it was in 1996.
2. VALUE OF
UK RESEARCH IMPROVEMENT
THE 2001 RAE
This improvement in research performance offers
significant value to the UK in terms of providing:
Underpinning knowledge and techniques,
technology and expertise for manufacturing, service industries,
local and central government administration, health social care,
education and the cultural industries.
Enhanced international recognition
for providing high quality, innovative research environments which
will continue to support increased overseas student recruitment
and will serve to attract R & D projects to the UK (eg against
competition from other states within the European Community).
Enhanced quality of curriculum development
and delivery of learning opportunitiesespecially at honours
degree and postgraduate level.
Improved quality of graduates and
postgraduates better to support local, regional and national employment
needs which in turn will lead to more innovatory and reflective
practice within UK industry, commerce, service industries and
If this position of significant research improvement
is to be capitalised on then an expansion of funds (even if not
fully commensurate with the increase in quality) is necessary.
For example an increase annually of as little as £200 million
per year across all the funding councils would produce significant
and clearly measurable benefits.
Without such additional funding there is a danger
that a number of distinctive, small and regionally important institutions
(with achievements of significant national excellence in research,
and clear improvements since 1996) will be significantly damaged
by having all their research funding removed. Seventeen English
stand to lose all their funding (currently totalling £4 million)in
reality the redistribution of this £4 million to such institutions
as Cambridge (current annual funding £64 million), Oxford
(£64 million) or Imperial (£56 million) would not significantly
affect the capacity of the latter to deliver high quality research,
but would seriously undermine the academic infrastructure of the
Also the 35 English "new universities"
(formerly polytechnics) have made major advances since 1992 in
the quality and output of their research on a total annual
HEFCE research grant which is less than the HEFCE research grant
of Oxford University alone. Despite achieving an increase from
less than 50 grade 5 researchers in 1996 to nearly 500 in 2001(with
comparable improvements throughout the whole scale) these universities
now face a potential loss of funding of around 33 per cent. There
is clear evidence that even with a small improvement in funding
(say of the order of £20 million annually) on current levels
the new universities could continue their massive contribution
to the major improvement in the international standing of UK research
achieved during the last decade.
Such institutions play an important role in
addressing local and regional issues through conducting internationally
recognised quality research in partnership with the regional community,
business and industry. In addition to these direct benefits to
the UK, recent performance indicators suggest that many of these
institutions, although receiving lower research-support grants,
provide better value for money in respect of the return on investment
in relation to the production of doctoral students and earned
research income than those institutions receiving greater infrastructure
research support. Indeed it has been the spur to action provided
by the appearance of the leading new universities as serious competitors
which has been instrumental in forcing a number of the more complacent
"old" universities to take the issue of research management
seriously for the first time. It would be a backward step now
to remove the possibility for the further extension of this form
of healthy competition.
The results of the 2001 RAE are a great success
story for the UK and a vindication of the policies of governments
of both parties during the 1990s in their commitment to the development
of a pluralistic and strong research culture as part of the expansion
of a unified higher education system.
Even if there is insufficient funding available
to satisfy the aspirations of all UK universities and HEIs there
is no need to undermine the international reputation of UK higher
education by suggesting that grade inflation has occurred. It
However if the government wishes to capitalise
on this major success and to sustain and increase the UK's role
as a European and world leader in research development then even
a small increase of £200m annually(about 4 per cent
of the total funding council grant, if necessary phased in over
two years) would make a very significant impact in enabling all
researchers and research groups to reach their full potential.
Professor Stuart Laing
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs), University
1 The seventeen institutions are: Buckinghamshire
and Chilterns, Derby, Lincoln, Canterbury Christchurch, Royal
College of Nursing, Southampton Institute, Harper Adams, Bretton
Hall, UC Chichester, Edge Hill, Worcester UC, Thames Valley, Kent
Institute of Art and Design, Surrey Institute of Art and Design,
St Mark and St John Plymouth, York St Johns, Newman College. Back