Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Professor Derek Burke CBE

  The first point is to raise my profoundest concern as to why the HEFCE did not foresee this possible outcome? It is well known that, since the time of Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, the HEFCE has always modelled the scores from the RAE in a computer in order to generate a solution that would reward excellence without damaging the Higher Education system, and it was surely obvious that the current outcome of general rising of scores was a possibility. So why on earth did they not hold back some of their funds for other initiatives (like the e-university) in cases the scores were higher than expected. Or did they not run any simulations? It strikes me as incompetent either way and it is quite unsatisfactory that the Chief Executives (both old and new) did not come to the Committee to explain how this very disadvantageous outcome came about. They can't shrug off something that might well destabilise an already stress system. In short why was there no contingency planning?

  The second point is that the outcome is gong to remove funding from all units of assessment except 5*, and this will surely lead to loss of staff, possibly by redundancies, and to a falling away of research momentum of the Universities, let alone the effect on University morale. What, University staff will say, is the point of working so hard to raise achievement f some bureaucratic decision is to penalise us? These points are well made in an article by Professors Sir Harry Kroto (a Novel Prize winner) and Tony Stace from the chemistry department at the University of Sussex who have just written an article for the most recent issue of THES (8 February, page 16), which I suggest might be passed to the Committee.[11]

12 February 2002

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