Memorandum from the London Metropolitan
1.1 This response has been prepared by the
Director of the Graduate School at London Metropolitan University.
He is also Chair of the UK Deans of Science (UKDS) and prepared
the UKDS submission to the Select Committee. The University broadly
supports the evidence contained in the UKDS statement. This submission
will therefore attempt not to repeat all the points expressed
1.2 London Metropolitan University was formed
on 1 August 2002 by the merger of London Guildhall University
with the University of North London. The new university continues
the missions of the two previous institutions. It intends to be
much more than the sum of the two previous universities. It aims
to provide education and training which will help students to
achieve their potential and London to succeed as a world city.
It is, and intends to continue to be, the major provider of vocational
and business education for the City and north and east regions
of London. The university is committed to promote personal development
and social justice.
1.3 We note that the Science and Technology
Committee is investigating what is being done "to safeguard
an adequate level of science teaching and research across universities
in England". This presupposes that there is a single clear
view of the meaning of "adequate". Without wishing to
be pedantic we would wish to propose that the Committee agree
that an adequate level of provision would include:
taught undergraduate and postgraduate
science courses available within reasonable travelling distance
for the vast majority of potential students
all institutions offering science
courses having high quality facilities and staff, with at least
a proportion of the staff involved in scientific research
within each region some variation
in the type of university at which a student can study to ensure
an appropriate diversity of provision.
1.4 London Metropolitan University has a
well-defined research policy which recognises a full spectrum
of research from the most fundamental experimental or theoretical
study to near market research/consultancy, creative work and advanced
pedagogic research acceptable in a national assessment exercise.
If there is to be a diversity of provision in London, local students,
usually the first in their families to enter higher education
and who are often from some of the most deprived boroughs in the
UK, have a right to receive their higher education delivered by
staff who understand the frontiers of their subject and in a learning
environment enriched by real research as well as "scholarship".
To these ends, we have found, and will endeavour to continue to
find, ways of supporting research in a wide range of strategic
areas. This has partly been achieved by the creation of nine Research
Institutes that are funded following competitive internal bidding
to support research which is based on the study of real world,
interdisciplinary solutions to the real world problems of society
be they local, regional, national or international.
2. THE IMPACT
2.1 We shall use the term "department"
as a description of an organisational unit but it will be clear
to the Committee that university staff (academic, administrative
and technical) are organised in many different configurations,
not necessarily in recognisable, subject-based departments.
2.2 It is obvious that the financial viability
of a science department (or subject) is dependent on many factors,
the most significant being income from teaching (and its recruitment
of students), income from research, other major external income
(eg consultancy, short courses, etc) the nature of its assets
(eg the age of its equipment and laboratories). Each of these
will impact on the financial position and a department's ability
to balance its income against its costs. It is therefore recognised
that the RAE is only one of the factors that affect the viability
of a discipline. However, we offer one example where an analysis
of the RAE results in 1996 strongly indicates a serious effect
on the availability of one subjectChemistry.
2.3 In 1996 the Royal Society of Chemistry
published a list of courses accredited for its Graduateship or
Licentiateship (Accredited Courses, The Royal Society of Chemistry,
August 1996). Such accreditation required the submission of significant
paperwork and explanatory text, a task not to be entered into
lightly. If one takes the 56 English universities listed in this
document as having a "Chemistry"
honours degree the following facts emerge:
For the 21 post-1992 universities, 13 (61%) do
not offer a Chemistry degree in UCAS for 2005 entry. For those
not entered in UoA 18, six out of eight (75%) no longer offer
Chemistry, for those who received a Grade 1 the figure is four
out of six (67%), for Grade 2, two out of six (33%). The one department
achieving at 3b has also stopped offering Chemistry.
For the pre-1992 universities the numbers no
longer offering Chemistry are
|Grade 2:||100% (2 out of 2)
|Grade 3b:||75% (3 out of 4)
|Grade 3a:||29% (2 out of 7)
|Grade 4 and above:||5% (1, Exeter, out of 20; note that King's obtained 3a in 1996)
Note that two universities chose not to enter their chemists
under UoA 18; one of those still offers Chemistry the other does
The data for the both groups of universities clearly indicate
an effect of RAE grade on continuation of Chemistry. It is accepted
that this may be a very complex issue with low RAE scores generating
poorer recruitment even to undergraduate courses and/or the lower
scores reflecting a malaise within a department (though a detailed
consideration of individual departments would not necessarily
bear this out).
The overall reduction in the percentage of universities offering
Chemistry is quite different for the two groups of universities:
for post-1992 61% (13 out of 21) no longer offer the subject,
for pre-1992 the figure is 26% (nine out of 35). The median RAE
score for the former was around (lower) two and was four for the
latter. We consider that these data are a clear indication of
a real effect of RAE results and their subsequent funding of one
important science discipline.
Note that the 1996 results are chosen for this comparison
as the full effects of the 2001 RAE settlements will not be seen
for three or more years. We believe that an equivalent analysis
of some other basic science disciplines would show a similar trend.
Where this may not yet be so apparent (eg in the biological sciences)
it will happen over the next 10 years unless a different approach
is taken to funding for research and teaching.
2.4. A graphic illustration of the impact of the change
in HEFCE's RAE funding formula is available from looking at the
changes in the allocation per RAE Quality Research Unit between
1996 and 2001 in a selection of sciences given in the Table below.
Of course, the changes for 3b and 3a Grades are even more extreme
with no funding being available except in the small number of
Zero Sum GamePercentage Changes in value of
RAE Quality Research Unit, 2001-02 and 2003-04.
|Biological Sciences||- 50
||- 7||- 11
||+ 1||+ 1
||+ 7||+ 7
|Earth Science||- 49
||- 5||- 5
|Environmental Sc||- 38
||+ 17||+ 16
|Pure Mathematics||- 39
||+ 15||+ 14
|Applied Maths||- 44
||+ 3||+ 3
|Stats and OR||- 49
||- 5||- 4
|Computer Science||- 38
||- 16||+ 16
3. THE DESIRABILITY
3.1 The concentration of science research funding into
the fewer universities has been at the cost of reducing the number
of departments offering science (see above) and the failure to
resource nationally excellent, and some internationally excellent,
research in submissions rated 3a and 3b
where there is much work of national importance which is now unfunded.
We believe this is wholly undesirable.
3.2 The concentration of research as measured by the
RAE has potential effects elsewhere. There is at least some indirect
evidence of this in, for example, the first tranche of the Laboratory
Infrastructure Fund based on 1996 ratings not 2001: where 32 awards
went to 5/5* departments, only 9 to 4 rated (all but one of which
were in the most research intensive universities) and 2 to those
with a 3 rating (both in research intensive universities).
4. THE IMPLICATIONS
4.1 This is almost a rhetorical question. Any change
in relative weighting for a subject from 2.0 to 1.7 has to have
a negative effect on that subject. It makes the retention of science
more problematic for all universities and is insufficient to deliver
appropriate courses in the long term.
5. THE OPTIMAL
5.1 The University is convinced that having a significant
proportion of its staff active in research is critical to the
vibrancy and attractiveness of its courses and its ability to
attract and retain high quality staff. This is essential if, as
an institution which is recognised for its leading role in widening
participation, we are to give our students an appropriate educational
5.2 If one takes as a proxy for research funding the
ranking generated by the Times Higher Educational Supplement from
the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, the "top 10"
and "bottom 10" universities show the following characteristics:
|Students from Private School
||Students from Social Class IIIM, IV, V
All the lower 10 are post-1992 universities, the upper 10
are all pre-1992. If there is to be any science teaching in the
post-1992 universities it is essential that there is adequate
funding for research so that those from social classes IIIM, IV
and V, already often disadvantaged before reaching university
are not further disadvantaged by being taught in a higher education
wasteland devoid of staff able to challenge and stimulate them
and in an atmosphere lacking in research, be it basic or applied.
It will follow from this that this University does not accept
the concept of a teaching-only science department.
6. THE IMPORTANCE
6.1 There are clear data to indicate that an increasing
percentage of students wish to, or have to, study at their local
university. If this is to include the opportunity to study science
it will almost certainly require some consideration of regional
availability. We would remind the Committee, however, that if
this is to reach all potential students who might wish to study
science, it will need to ensure a diversity of provision.
7. THE EXTENT
7.1 We are somewhat ambivalent as to whether direct intervention
in the form of support for so called strategic subjects is practical
or desirable. London Metropolitan University has, through extremely
careful planning and use of resources committed itself to supporting
scientific research and endeavour to maintain a quality experience
for our students and staff. It has also begun the development
of a major new science building, total cost ca £26 million.
Of this figure only £4 million is available as a capital
grant and £4 million in a loan from HEFCE, the remainder
has to be found by the University. We are doing this because we
are utterly committed to being able to offer access to higher
education science for all in London and (elsewhere) who could
benefit from itnot just those who can gain entry to a research-rich
university. We believe that we are the only university in the
inner part of London to make such a commitment. We would be very
concerned if our commitment were to receive no resources from
a regional support fund while other universities who may have
already cut and run are rewarded with extra resources.
26 January 2005
"Chemistry" is used to describe an essentially single
subject degree in the subject which may be titled Chemistry, Applied
Chemistry or possible Chemical Sciences. It deliberately excludes
eg Environmental Chemistry, Chemistry and Forensic Science, etc. Back
Note that for the purpose of the calculations Manchester/UMIST
have been combined. Back
3b equates to attainable levels of excellence in more than half
the research activity submitted, 3a to national excellence in
over two-thirds possibly showing evidence of international excellence. Back