Saturday, April 15, 2006

Higher Education follies

Finally, after so much staff angst and wasted time, money and forests of paper, the Research Assessment Exercise is going to be killed off; not because it's a stupid process, but because the Treasury wants to save some money. One bit of bureaucracy in Higher Education goes - but there's enough left to strangle creative teaching.

"The RAE is dead - long live metrics"

"On Budget day, academics were stunned to discover that the deeply unpopular Research Assessment Exercise is to be killed off. Lucy Hodges reports."

Independent, 13 April 2006

"... Since the first research assessment exercise in 1989, university departments have lived and died by the RAE. Vice-chancellors have restructured their universities; for example, chemistry at Exeter was closed because it scored only a grade 4."

The obvious criticisms, which should have aborted it long ago, are now being listened to:

"... criticisms are that the RAE rewards research that was done years before because of the five-or-more-year cycle on which it operates, and that it is a ridiculous administrative burden. For the 2008 exercise, 900 academics are expected to spend hundreds of hours on the panels that review research in each subject, quite apart from the work that is carried out on the RAE in each university.

Even more obviously:

"It encourages conservative behaviour because people don't want to take risks," Driscoll says. "It discriminates against interdisciplinary research and it doesn't encourage collaboration. It's a winner-takes-all system. Frankly, the amount we get is so small that it's worth gambling on change."

Some much time was spent on very detailed research, often on esoteric subjects (I seem to recall reading that the average research paper is read by about 6 people) and then all that time on assessment of that research - when almost no critical thought was expended on the whole damn stupid system.

Lichetnberg said (roughly): "Many a man has devoted his life to something, when a few minutes serious thought would have shown it wasn't worth a tupenny damn."


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