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EDITIONS
Friday, 14 December, 2001, 13:06 GMT
Oxford's history blow
Oxford
Oxford University slipped down a category in history
Oxford Brookes University - a former polytechnic - has been rated more highly for the quality of its history research than Oxford University.

Oxford Brookes was given a 5* grade in a major assessment exercise, whereas Oxford scored 5.


They {Oxford Brookes} have a very strong history department - and I congratulate them

Dr Felicity Heal, head of Oxford history faculty
The scores mean that more than half of the research at the post-1992 university was deemed to be of international excellence, whereas just half of the research at the ancient seat of learning was thought to be of this standard.

The result is a blow to Oxford's history department, which scored a 5* in the 1996 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), while Oxford Brookes came in at level 4.

Click here for the tables

The result is just one indication that the former polytechnics, which gained university status nearly ten years ago, are creeping up on the older universities in terms of research.

The five-yearly RAE - which is used by funding councils to distribute 1bn funding - showed 46 new university departments were awarded grades 5* or 5 in 2001, compared to just 10 in 1996.

Oxford offers congratulations

Head of the history faculty at Oxford, Dr Felicity Heal, said the result was somewhat disappointing.


We're very different departments - they're huge with 130 staff, we're very small with 12 staff

Professor Anne Digby, Oxford Brookes
"I would have thought we put a very similar presentation in terms of research and standard to last time, but these things can be variable," said Dr Heal.

Asked about Oxford Brookes' performance, she said: "They have a very strong history department - and I congratulate them."

"They have strong specialism in specific areas, especially medicine and we respect the quality of the work they're doing."

So could the result affect Oxford's reputation?

"In terms of competition, I don't think we'd feel troubled by it," said Dr Heal.

International recognition

Research co-ordinator at Oxford Brookes' school of humanities, Professor Anne Digby, said she took pride in her colleagues' work.

But she did not think the difference between her department's score and Oxford's was significant.

"We're very different departments - they're huge with 130 staff, we're very small with 12 staff. They're very varied and we're very specialised," said Professor Digby.

Head of the school of humanities at Oxford Brookes, John Perkins, said: "Our historians are internationally recognised for their research, demonstrated by their key text books and papers."

"The Oxford Brookes history department is also home of a research centre for the history of medicine with substantial support from the Wellcome Trust," he said.

Sir Howard Newby, head of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) said the grade difference was not significant.

"Oxford Brookes is very specialised in terms of history, concentrating on history of medicine and this is the best funded area.

"It's not surprising that is should do well," said Sir Howard.

See also:

14 Dec 01 | UK Education
14 Dec 01 | UK Education
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