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RAE 2008 : Initial decisions by the UK funding bodies

February 2004

Ref RAE 01/2004

To: Heads of publicly-funded higher education institutions in the United Kingdom
Of interest to those responsible for: Research
Reference: RAE 01/2004
Publication date: February 2004
Enquiries for England: Tom Sastry
tel:0117 931 7458

Diana Jones
tel: 0117 931 7290
Enquiries for Scotland: Sheila Inglis
tel: 0131 313 6631

Michael McPartlin
tel: 0131 313 6584
Enquiries for Wales: Linda Tiller
tel: 029 2068 2228
Enquiries for Northern Ireland: Linda Bradley
tel: 028 9025 7607

Executive summary


1.   This document announces key decisions by the UK higher education funding bodies on the timing and conduct of the next Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

Key points

2.   We undertake periodic assessments of the quality of research carried out in higher education institutions (HEIs) in all disciplines and across the UK. The purpose is to inform our allocations of grant for research, and to support our shared policy of promoting continuous improvement in the quality of the UK research base and its economic and social impact.

3.   The last RAE took place in 2001. Following a thorough review of our approach to research assessment, led by Sir Gareth Roberts, we have agreed to carry out another UK-wide RAE to be completed in 2008. Like previous exercises, this will be based upon expert review by discipline-based panels considering written submissions from HEIs.

4.   A number of significant changes will be made to the process, reflecting the review and subsequent consultations. The main points announced in this document are as follows:

  1. Timing: results will be published in December 2008. Subsequent RAEs will follow on a six-year cycle. For the 2008 exercise, the census date is 31 October 2007, and closing date for submissions is 30 November 2007.
  2. Submissions: to be eligible for submission, research outputs in all disciplines must be published between 1 January 2001 and 31 July 2007. Submissions may list no more than four outputs for each named researcher; a lower maximum may be set by some panels.
  3. Assessment: a single assessment method will be used for all participating HEIs. Assessment will be conducted by some 15-20 main panels, and around 70 sub-panels. The panel structure will be finalised in consultation with the research community in 2004. There will be no separate assessment of research competences or mid-point monitoring. The assessment process will be designed to ensure that joint submissions are not discouraged. Due weight will be given to applied research assessed against appropriate criteria of excellence.
  4. Results: results will be published as a continuously graded quality profile for each submission, at the sub-panel level. This would replace the existing seven-point rating scale. Quality profiles will be criterion-referenced against clearly defined common standards.

5.   In developing our plans for the next RAE we have paid particular attention to ensuring that the cost of the exercise, and the administrative burden that it will place upon HEIs, are kept to the minimum - having regard to its expected impact and to the resources to be allocated using its outcomes.

6.   Much remains to be done to finalise the detailed plans for the exercise. We are starting work on this immediately. A consultation on the assessment panel structure and appointment of main panel and sub-panel members will begin shortly, and we envisage making a further detailed announcement on the conduct of the exercise during 2005. A provisional timetable for the exercise is in Table 2 below.

Action required

7.   This report is for information.