Academic Champions League?

In the latest Higher Education section of The Australian it is all about research assessment. The Australian Government has planned to introduce a Research Quality Framework (RQF) which is largely based on the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The RAE is a peer review exercise to evaluate the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The introduction of the RAE has improved universities’ research performance (in terms of impact of publications) and created greater research concentration.

It’ s a rather strange moment to introduce the RQF because the UK has plans to abolish the RAE and return to a system that looks more like the current Australian model. In the words of Snitch:

“So Britain is scrapping its research assessment exercise just as Australia prepares to introduce one. What’s more, Britain is returning to a metric system of measuring quality, just like the one Australia uses now.”

One very visible result of the RAE is the concentration of research. Obviously this gives less concerns to Australia’s leading universities (joined in the Group of 8) than to the other players. It’s expected that most of the research funding will be concentrated in these 8 research intensive universities.

Although the framework has not been implemented yet, some of the consequences are already visible in anticipation of the RQF:

“In a significant loss for RMIT University, a leading expert in biomedical sciences has left the campus, taking his entire staff of 15, his laboratory and research grants worth nearly $1 million a year to a research quality framework-free medical institute. As universities prepare for greater competition under the framework, global diabetes specialist Mark Febbraio has announced he will leave RMIT for the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne, blaming the impending introduction of the RQF and its effect on universities outside the Group of Eight.”

Many of the universities outside the group of 8 complain that criteria for societal and economic relevance are missing in the framework, and this will even increase the diversion of funds away from the technological universities to the Group of 8. The concentration of research will likely lead to a ‘bidding war on stars‘. An Australian equivalent of a European Champions League, where the Barcelonas, the Milans, the Arsenals and the Inters will always be in the semi-finals because they can afford to buy the best players?

On the other hand, maybe not:

“The plan to introduce a national assessment system for research quality has stalled after federal Education Minister Julie Bishop announced yesterday she was setting up another advisory group to consider it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *