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UCU demands public debate on future of university research

20 July 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

UCU has today called on all academic and academic-related staff to give their input into the future of how research is assessed.

The union has been frustrated by the government's attempt to pre-empt any debate on alternatives to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

To ensure the voice of the people most affected by the changes is heard UCU is launching a groundbreaking consultation exercise. The wide-ranging survey is the first ever to canvass the opinions of all staff, union members and non members alike, across all universities in the UK.

The union believes that the government is too narrowly focused on replacing the RAE with a system that rewards those who generate research income. UCU wants a much wider debate that incorporates not only assessment methods, but also the funding of research and how this impacts on teaching and other activities.

From today, university staff will be able to complete UCU's survey and feed directly into recommendations the union will put to the government. UCU wants to hear the staff view on the 2008 RAE, the concentration of research funding and the role of research councils. The survey also asks questions about core values, including the relationships between research and teaching and between universities and business.

UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'UCU and its predecessors have been long-term opponents of the RAE and were delighted when, earlier this year, the decision was announced to scrap it. To ensure we do not just have a replacement for replacement's sake we need a full independent, public review of alternative ways to fund and assess university research.

We are stepping up our efforts to ensure any replacement expands the opportunities for research throughout higher education in a demonstrably fair and transparent manner. We will not allow this debate to become rushed or narrowed. We must take the necessary time to find a decent workable replacement.

If the new format is to have any legitimacy it must command the consent of the entire sector. UCU is playing its part by launching this groundbreaking consultation exercise to ensure as many voices as possible are heard. We will feed those thoughts into the Government and demand that it allows a full public debate on the future of university research.'

UCU is holding a major public policy conference on Thursday 12 October 2006. Keynote speakers include Dr Jonathan Adams from Evidence UK, Dr Lisa Lucas from Bristol University and Professor Roger Brown from the Research and Teaching Forum.

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