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EDITIONS
Friday, 14 December, 2001, 00:18 GMT
New universities catch up
University of Huddersfield Queensgate Campus
The University of Huddersfield has scored well
The boundaries between new and old universities are narrowing, with the post-1992 sector showing great improvements in academic research in a major assessment exercise.

While the traditional universities maintained their research lead, the new universities - former polytechnics which got university status nearly 10 years ago - scored much more highly in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise than they did in the last assessment in 1996.

The boundaries between the old and new universities in terms of research is much more blurred now than last time

Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of Hefce
This year three new university departments were awarded the top 5* grade in the assessment, compared to none last time, and 43 departments got level 5, compared to just 10 in 1996.

The number of post-92 institutions with the bottom score of 1 point (research is not of national excellence, never mind international) went down from 214 to 17 - the number only getting level 2 improved from 386 to 130.

Click here for the tables

"The boundaries between the old and new universities in terms of research is much more blurred now than last time," said Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of Hefce.

Oxford competition

One notable example is the history department at Oxford Brookes University which was rated 5*, whereas Oxford University only scored 5 for history.

Newton Building-City campus
Nottingham Trent University has four departments at level 5
Similarly, the RAE rated research into Celtic studies at Ulster University (formed in 1984) as 5*, pipping Queens' University, Belfast and Oxford to the post with their ratings of 5 for the same subject.

Anglia Polytechnic University and Nottingham Trent University, both with a rating of 5 for English language and literature, did better than old universities Essex and King's College London with scores of 4.

And the University of Hertfordshire recorded a higher score - 3a - for linguistics research than the University of East Anglia in Norwich which got 3b.

Good progress

The University of Huddersfield showed significant progress - in the 1996 RAE 15 of its departments were given the lowest scores of 1 and 2, and none were reached level 5.

If these world class results can be achieved on a shoe-string, think what would be possible with proper funding

Dr Geoffrey Copland, Coalition of Modern Universities
But in 2001 three departments were rated at level 5, and just three in the level 1 and 2 category.

Similarly, Nottingham Trent University now has four departments rated level 5, having had none in 1996 and not one of its departments are in the bottom two categories, compared to seven in 1996.

And, after seeing 10 departments ranked in the bottom two categories last time and none in the top, the University of Plymouth now celebrates three departments at level 5 and none in the bottom two categories.

Call for more cash

General secretary of the lecturers' union Natfhe, Paul Mackney, said the RAE results represented a "remarkable achievement" for the new universities and higher colleges.

"It is even more laudable considering the woefully small amounts of research funding available to our institutions," said Mr Mackney.

He urged the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) not to concentrate research funds among an elite few.

"New universities need and deserve their fair 15% share of the funding now to build on their successes," he said.

The Coalition of Modern Universities (CMU) said the RAE showed the post-1992 universities were conducting world-class research despite a lack of funding.

CMU chair, Dr Geoffrey Copland, said: "If these world class results can be achieved on a shoe-string, think what would be possible with proper funding."

See also:

18 May 00 | Education
14 Dec 01 | Education
14 Dec 01 | Education
14 Dec 01 | Education
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