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Select Committee on Science and Technology Second Report


60. The RAE is not in itself a funding mechanism but is used as a means of implementing a policy of selective funding. The aim is to measure the quality of research in different departments in order to reward excellence where it occurs and encourage its development in others. HEFCE calculates the QR research grant to each university by employing a weighting formula, with the more highly rated departments attracting the highest weighting. The lowest rated departments may receive no QR funding. In addition, each subject is assigned to one of three cost weights: high cost laboratory and clinical subjects; intermediate cost subjects; and others. In 1997-2001, these weights were 1.7, 1.3 and 1.0 respectively. Following data produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, high cost subjects will be weighted 1.6 from 2002-03. A final weighting is made for the volume of research being conducted. The principal factor is the number of 'research active' academic staff funded from general departmental funds (counting as '1') but allowance is also made for research assistants (0.1), research fellows (0.1), postgraduate students (0.15) and charitable income (0.228 per £25,000 received).

61. The allocation for each UoA is calculated according to the number of active researchers submitted in that subject. This means that a 5* department in a UoA with large numbers of other 5* departments will get less per active researcher than a high performing department in a less successful UoA.[109] For example, given two UoAs with the same number of researchers, if UoA X has nine 5* departments and UoA Y has three, each 5* department in UoA Y will receive more funding than each 5* department in UoA X.

62. Universities are not obliged to spend their Funding Council block grant on any particular departments. In theory at least, a university could close down a 5* department and spend the money elsewhere, for example in an attempt to bring a low-rated department up the scale in the next RAE. In practice, however, we understand that, in general, universities use the RAE ratings as a means of distributing their grant internally, not least because this avoids internal arguments.

109   Ev 10, para 6 Back

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Prepared 24 April 2002