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and the

RAE 2001


Each year the government spends around 1 billion of public funds on research in universities and colleges, distributed by the higher education funding councils. This meets the cost of the infrastructure - the staff, equipment and buildings - required to maintain the research base. The councils must ensure this research is of high quality and that as well as extending knowledge it meets the needs of commerce and industry. This leaflet describes how the quality of the research in UK universities is assessed and how the results relate to business.

How research is assessed

Research is assessed through a UK-wide Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) which provides quality ratings for all universities and other higher education institutions (HEIs) across all disciplines, using panels of experts from academia, industry and commerce. The panels rate the quality of research against international and national excellence benchmarks. Institutions doing the best research get a larger proportion of the funds available.

The funding councils use the results of the RAE to allocate finance to HEIs doing high quality research. HEIs use that money to fund the staff, equipment and buildings required to maintain their research base. In turn this enables them to undertake projects that meet the needs of commerce and industry and to engage in collaborative research.

The definition of research that applies in the RAE includes "work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce and industry". In practice this means that:

  • The full range of research outputs (not just published papers) is considered on the basis of quality. These outputs include patents and other intellectual property rights, designs, new products and prototypes, and commercial and technical reports.
  • In the next assessment in 2001, 75% of the panels will involve representatives from industry, commerce and other users of research, reflecting the importance that the funding councils place on the direct involvement of research users.
  • Mechanisms have been introduced to enable confidential research, including commercially sensitive work, to be included in the assessment process.
  • Full recognition is given to industrial and commercial sponsorship of research projects and studentships.

How the RAE helps business

The UK has a world-class science, engineering and design base in its HEIs. They provide a pool of talented people to work in and with business. They also conduct research from "blue skies" to "near-market" across all disciplines, and thus have a direct impact on quality of life and wealth creation for every size and type of organisation and business.

The outcomes of the RAE are made public. Clearly this information is of direct importance both to institutions and to the research markets in which they operate. The RAE therefore provides a powerful stimulus to research and economic development.

Valuing industrial and commercial research

Globally, the most dynamic economies have strong HEIs, which have creative partnerships with business. British HEIs are encouraged, through the RAE, to develop coherent portfolios of research including that which is directly relevant to industry and commerce. This in turn allows public funding to be directed to maintain and develop a well-targeted and high quality national research base of science, engineering and design.

Over the last decade the RAE has helped to maintain and improve the quality of research in the UK so that it is among the best in the world.

What to do next

Preparations are already well under way for the next RAE in 2001, so it is hoped that businesses will now want to discuss with HEIs the future potential for research partnerships and to ensure that any current research is included in submissions to the assessment panels.

For further information contact:

John Rogers
RAE Manager
Northavon House
Coldharbour Lane
Tel: 0117 931 7237
E-mail: j.rogers@hefce.ac.uk
WWW: http://www.rae.ac.uk

Last updated 9 May 2000

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