Written by James Groves
Question 1 - Do you agree that the HEFCE should continue to fund selectively on the basis of quality?
Yes. However we feel the definition of quality should be broadened to take into account the quality of the research environment, and the research training environment, as well as the quality of the research eventually produced.
Question 2 - Do you agree with the aim of balancing support for existing excellence with opportunity for new areas of excellence to develop?
Yes. It is critical that smaller, lower rated departments, particularly in the post-1992 sector, are given sufficient opportunity to develop and flourish.
Question 3 - Do you agree that considerations of 'critical mass' should play no part in the funding decisions of the HEFCE?
Question 4 - Do you agree with the intention to protect top-rated departments?
No. We recognise the need to protect high quality departments; however by reducing funding to lower-rated departments, one greatly reduces their chances of ever reaching a 5 or 5* rating. This in turn leads to stagnation - it becomes very difficult for developing subject areas to grow in such an environment.
Question 5 - Do you agree that funds should be retained for both 3a and 3b rated departments?
Yes. 3a and 3b rated departments are, by definition, centres of high quality research, and deserve support from HEFCE.
Question 6 - Do you agree that there is a need for specific funding to high-performing units in English HEIs to enable collaboration with centres of excellence overseas?
Yes. Indeed there is a case for specific funding to enable collaboration between centres of excellence within the UK, especially to facilitate interdisciplinary research. This would also allow smaller departments to attract extra funding via collaborative efforts.
Question 7a - Do you agree that there should be no more than the current number of units of assessment?
On the contrary we believe there is a good case for more units of assessment, to reflect the increasing diversification of subject areas and proliferation of new and interdisciplinary thinking.
Question 7b - Do you agree that there should not be significantly fewer than the current number of units of assessment?
Yes. Indeed we feel there should be no fewer units than at present. A reduction in the number of units of assessment could lead to HE institutions concentrating on fewer areas, and neglecting non-mainstream areas of study.
If the number of units of assessment were reduced, there could well be severe planning problems for HE institutions. A drop in RAE rating for only a few of an institution's units of assessment could lead to a catastrophic drop in QR income, so significantly affecting all medium term projections.
Question 8 - In 1998, following a consultation process, the HEFCE rejected the introduction of a 'policy factor' which would have weighted funding towards priority subject areas. Do you agree that a policy factor should not be introduced?
Yes. HEFCE should not try to pre-empt the policy decisions of institutions, nor should it act as an agent of government policy.
Question 9 - Do you agree that there is a case for regular review of the pricing bands in the research funding method?
Yes. Relative costs change from year to year, and it is fair that pricing band formulae reflect this.
Question 10 - Do you agree that the level of project funds available in the arts and humanities should be taken into account in determining subject budgets (quanta)?
Yes, strongly. The arts and humanities have a high dependency on HEFCE funding, proportionally, and such a decision would greatly boost arts and humanities research in England. Furthermore we feel it is fair that funds from other sources are taken into account when allocating HEFCE funds.
Question 11 - Do you agree that there is a case for the AHRB being formally established as a Research Council?
Question 12a - Are there ways in which you believe the HEFCE's funding and assessment methodologies inhibit collaboration?
We believe the HEFCE's current methodologies inhibit collaboration between researchers at different institutions. The average costs incurred by two or more researchers at different institutions engaged in collaborative research will always be greater than the costs incurred by researchers at the same institution, even taking the internet into account. HEFCE's policy should reflect this, to ensure that collaboration between institutions and collaboration within the same institution are granted similar effective levels of opportunity.
Question 12b - Should the HEFCE provide support for specific research networks?
Yes. Where there is an established research network, which has demonstrated potential for growth, HEFCE should provide support for that network.
Question 12c - Is there a general case for explicit funding for collaborative research activity?
Yes. As we mentioned in our answer to question 12a, collaborative research incurs higher costs in general, and so is deserving of higher funding in general. Such funding could also be beneficial in helping smaller, 3a and 3b rated, departments to develop and thrive through collaborative work.
Question 13 - Should there continue to be a research assessment process based on peer review, building on the foundations of the RAE?
Yes. Peer review should continue to be central to research funding allocations.
Question 14/15 - Do you agree that further efforts are needed to ensure that the sector understands the RAE process, and particularly the criteria used by panels?
Question 16 - Do you agree that quality of research should continue to be the sole basis for assessment in the RAE?
We believe the RAE assessment criteria should be extended to take into account:
(i) the quality of the local research environment;
(ii) the quality of research produced by postgraduate research students.
We agree that applicable research should be fairly addressed.
Question 17 - Do you agree that RAE panels should be given more freedom to collect evidence specific to their discipline?
Question 18 - Do you agree that a new unit of assessment should be considered only after a new discipline has both emerged and achieved maturity?
Yes, though careful consideration would need to be given as to how, precisely, a discipline would be judged to have "achieved maturity".
Question 19 - Do you agree that the HEFCE should discontinue GR funding?
Question 20 - Do you agree that mechanisms should be established for the targeted distribution of HEROBC funds?
Yes, with the proviso that HEROBC should not become in any way a replacement for generic QR funding.
Question 21a - Do you agree that scholarship is an activity that can be distinguished from research?
We strongly agree that scholarship is a distinct activity from research. It should be separately recognised, assessed and rewarded by the relevant assessing and funding bodies.
Question 21b - Do you agree that scholarship should be required of all academics who teach?
All academics who teach should be required to demonstrate scholarship in their field. This is particularly important at postgraduate level, where it is crucial that students are made aware of new developments in their area of study.
Question 22 - Do you agree that funds for teaching are the right source of support for scholarship?
We agree with paragraph 175 that funds for teaching should include an element of support for scholarship. Furthermore, it should be recognised that good scholarship often leads to higher quality research, particularly in terms of opening up opportunities for collaboration.
Question 23 - Do you agree that HEFCE funding should encourage research of local, regional and national importance, as well as research of international excellence?
Question 24 - Do you agree that a new stream of capability development funding should be developed?
Yes. This innovation would be particularly valuable to 3a and 3b rated departments, to enable them to develop and flourish.
Question 25 - Do you agree that the HEFCE should modify its funding method to remove incentives to recruit staff and students at the expense of infrastructure?
Question 26 - Do you agree that charitable income should be removed from the volume measure, and charitable grants should instead be supported on an agreed, explicit basis?
Question 27 - Should the HEFCE amend the funding model to take account of the basis on which EU funding is provided?
Question 28 - Do you agree that institutions should be expected, in general, to charge prices which at least cover the cost of research they carry out under contract?
Question 29 - Do you agree that additional capital funds should be provided annually by the Government for research infrastructure, and these should be earmarked for this purpose when allocated by the HEFCE to institutions?
Question 30 - Do you agree with the principle that a proportion of QR should be earmarked specifically for infrastructure investment by the HEFCE?
Yes, provided this is for research infrastructure.
Question 31 - Do you agree that the HEFCE should explore further the reasons behind the relative under-representation of women in the highest-rated departments, and whether other groups appear not to be realising their full research potential?
Yes. HEFCE should also examine the relatively low proportion of female postgraduate research students in the UK, particularly in the highest-rated departments, when compared to the proportion of students as a whole in the UK who are female.
HEFCE should, furthermore, also explore whether there are any other groups in the postgraduate research population appearing not to realise their full potential.
Question 32 - Do you agree that personal statements should be permitted in a future RAE for those staff for whom a standard submission is not appropriate?
Question 33 - Do you agree that research training should be the subject of a separate assessment process, linked to the RAE?
Yes, strongly. There is no evidence, in our view, of a direct correlation between a high quality research environment and a high quality research training environment. There are many 2 rated departments providing excellent environments for doctoral students; equally there are many 5* rated departments whose research training provision is almost nonexistent.
High quality research training environments within lower rated departments should receive proper recognition. Highly rated departments should be given a proper incentive to provide an effective research training environment. For both these reasons we strongly endorse the notion of a separate research training assessment exercise.
Question 34 - Do you agree that funding for research students ought to be separated from funding for research?
Yes. Research students have distinct needs to academic staff, which should be recognised through provision of a separate income stream.
We feel funding for research students should be allocated via a research training assessment exercise, which would take into account the quality of the training environment provided to research students.
As we mentioned in our answer to question 16, we feel that research students should still have an input into the research assessment exercise; the quality of their research output should be taken into account when calculating RAE ratings.
Question 35 - Do you agree that the HEFCE should develop and enforce minimum standards for the delivery of postgraduate research programmes?
Yes. HEFCE should build on the guidelines laid out by the QAA in their code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, particularly the section on postgraduate research programmes, in enforcing minimum standards for delivery.
Question 36 - Do you agree that the HEFCE should facilitate collaboration between institutions to support the delivery of postgraduate research programmes?
Yes. It is particularly important from the point of view of access to postgraduate education that HEFCE supports and encourages postgraduate research in smaller, less developed departments.
Question 37a - Do you agree that there is a case for taking steps to ensure adequate PhD output in certain subjects?
Yes, we agree. It must be borne in mind, though, that one of the major reasons for low levels of PhD output in certain subjects is the relatively low level of financial support available to postgraduate research students. Furthermore the low level of pay for academic staff in the UK remains a major disincentive towards pursuing doctoral study, since many prospective postgraduates enrol for PhDs with a view towards a possible academic career.
In the light of this, the EPSRC's recent decision to introduce four year doctoral training accounts is a welcome one, which will hopefully promote access.
Question 37b - Do you agree that the proposed capability development funding stream is the appropriate mechanism for ensuring adequate PhD output?
We agree it is an appropriate mechanism. It should not necessarily be the sole mechanism; as we argue in our answer to question 37a, there are other means by which numbers of PhD students may be increased.
We also hope the proposed capability-development stream funding does not neglect the arts, humanities and social sciences, which generally have far lower levels of PhD students than the sciences and the management disciplines. It would be regretful if the main effect of capability-development stream funding were to even further reduce the overall proportion of PhD students studying arts, humanities and social sciences.
Question 38 - Do you agree that institutions should be required to submit a staff development strategy as a condition for the receipt of research funding?
Yes. All institutions should be required to submit a staff development strategy before they receive any HEFCE funding, not just research funding.