The Research Acclamation Exercise

22 December, 2008

That thundering caravan of academic backslapping and self aggrandizement the Research Assesment Exercise has hoved into view once again. There’s a couple of problems with it. As it’s used to decide where the research money goes there is a tendency to play to the gallery.

As any departmental head will understand there are several things they need to do. For a start don’t enter the academics who are respectively mad, drunk or just haven’t done any work but had a paper cut 4 months ago. Oh and the students forget about them they don’t count, they just pay for it. In the smaller subjects they’re going to know the people who work is being assessed so plenty of room for professional jealousy and with 8,900 staff on the highest grade 4* British academia can certainly claim to be world leaders in grade inflation.

But research isn’t the be all and end all of universities. I think there is a role for greater variety in higher education. There should  be a much greater range of options open to wannabe students of all ages, part time courses, evening courses, internet based courses, squeezing 3 academic years into two normal ones by cutting out the long holidays or spreading those 2 years into 4 with part work with an employer who sponsors the student through the course and gets a highly trained graduate with excellent skills for their business at the end of it. The ability of academics to teach is one that should be recognised in the pay structure .

Prospective students also need much more information than presently.The contact time, staff student ratio’s, student satisfaction, post qualification earnings and a knowledge and skill set standard that you need to pass inorder to get the qualification so you can show an employer what you can do all need to be set out in much greater detail. It would also be very much in students best interests if the worst departments and in some cases institutions were shut. There is not much point in studying for 3 years and getting in a pile of debt for a qualification which isn’t worth the loo paper its written on as these TVU students will testify.

Research is also vitally important and at the very top research departments there is a case that cuts teaching loads on researchers to let them get on with it. I have a feeling that I read an article somewhere that this was going to be the last RAE but if such a thing was a figment of my over active imagination my I suggest some suitable gradings for the next one.

5.  Nobel!

4. Really rather quite good but no need to wet yourself with excitement.

3. Look it’s fine. In the next decade we’ll give you a promotion but for now just show it to your Mum.

2. Thank you for making up the numbers, here’s a biscuit.

1. You can’t expect the taxpayer to subsidise your bartab in pursuit of the fuck a fresher prize (staff division)

Anyway if you want to have a look at the real thing you can read it here.

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