The Big REF gamble

Three days in a row? Crumbs. Better do some real work soon.

Interesting but perhaps not surprising that the reactions to yesterdays Tricky Dicky post were all about University PR and Corporatism. Universities are in a tricky situation; its quite right that they should be more business-like, but not that they should be run as businesses. Education is not simply a commercial transaction; but we do have to balance the books, attract students, maintain a brand, and so on.

The public worry tends to concentrate on what the evolution of student fees is doing to the university infrastructure. (Or at least the English infrastructure; Scotland is a kind of giant experimental control…) Everybody is obsessed with bums on seats, and with the ghastly Key Information Sets etc (see this post). Market forces will mean that some thrive and some sink.

But thats only half of it. The other half of our income comes from research funding, and most of that still comes through HEFCE, SFC etc. This is why we are all panicking about the upcoming Research Excellence Framework (REF). The money we get will depend in an unknown but certainly highly non-linear way on our gradings. Universities are being very entrepreneurial about this : there has been a burst of academic recruitments, getting fresh young stars in just in time to count their papers.

If this works, you are in the money; if however your grading comes out low, you are stuffed. Stuck with a salary bill you can’t pay.

Maybe, like RBS, when some big universities fail, the government will buy 80% of them.

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4 Responses to The Big REF gamble

  1. Nick says:

    very interesting blog, now following you from my wordpres site.

  2. [...] the Browne report and a naive approach to “student choice”. I think perhaps I can count The Big REF Gamble as Part II – lots of us are investing for success, hiring new staff before the REF, but we [...]

  3. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a
    comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks a lot!

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