Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Cranfield University

  1.  As the UK's only wholly postgraduate, technological specialist institution we welcome the UK government's commitment to diversity in the mission of UK HEIs. However, there is no doubt that the RAE and its impact on HEFCE's research funding currently runs counter to such a position. The mode 1 "blue-skies" focus of RAE to date, impacts significantly on institutions such as Cranfield, whose mission includes substantial mode 2 research with the aim of transferring knowledge into real and viable applications. The inevitable consequence is impact on the financial viability of departments which play a key role in the future wealth creation of our nation. Such institutions can respond to this by either distorting their institutional mission, to "play" the RAE academic game, or maintain mission and suffer significant financial and potentially reputational losses due to middle RAE gradings. HEFCE has made public undertakings that mode 2 research will be more highly valued in RAE2008, however there is still disquiet regarding how this will be achieved. Major bodies such as the Royal Academy of Engineering have offered intelligent ways forward for RAE2008, and we welcome in particular, the RAEng approach as it will enhance the mission of research intensive "Lambert" institutions, such as Cranfield, who choose to support the future economy of the UK, rather than simply carry out "blue sky" mode 1 research. A reconfigured RAE2008 and its impact on HEFCE's research funding method will result in financial recognition of such distinctive missions and support the financial viability of these institution's departments.

  2.  Whilst recognising that financial support for research in HEIs is limited, we see serious issues concerning any move to planned research concentration and the basis on which decisions on concentration are made. The challenge for policymakers is that the ground-breaking science and technology we need for the future UK economy is simply not just an evolution from that in current highly funded institutions. The UK therefore needs to maintain a breadth and diversity of mission in its research intensive HEIs. Equally, any move to concentration seems focussed entirely on mode 1/RAE metrics which miss key elements of the UK's research base (as discussed in point one above).

  3.  We have no comment to make on weightings in the HEFCE funding formula.

  4.  As a wholly postgraduate institution we recognise the imperative of research informing education at this level and cannot envisage substantial science/technology PG education being conducted in `teaching only' departments.

  5.  The regional context of HEIs is diverse and complex. Our view is that regional outreach is not independent of leading-edge research, but that these elements are interdependent. It is therefore imperative that regions have access to HEIs with leading-edge research departments which in a complimentary manner can provide technological outreach to regional commerce, as well as high class education to their communities. The issue of maintaining regional capacity as far as Cranfield sees it is much more one of unevenness of funding between regions, rather than one of lack of capacity or will to engage.

  6.  As a market-led specialist institution we wish to make no response on the subject of government intervention.

January 2005

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