Russell Group warns that REF impact weighting is still too high

03 March 2011

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

"The Russell Group recognises the importance of demonstrating the immense impact that our research has had on the UK's economic prosperity and quality of life. Indeed, we published a report setting out how groundbreaking research conducted in Russell Group universities has resulted in far-reaching benefits which have been shared by the UK's businesses, government, and taxpayer.

"However, it is vital that any method of assessing impact is fair, accurate and robust, particularly when a substantial amount of money will be allocated using that method in a tight financial environment. We welcome HEFCE's decision to reduce the REF weighting of impact from the initially proposed 25% to 20%, but we still believe 20% is too high a weighting when impact assessment is still at such an embryonic stage and is relatively untested. As the chairs of the impact pilot panels put it, 'A lot has been learned from the pilot exercise about how to assess impact robustly, but the assessment in the first full REF will still be developmental, and it will be important to carry the confidence of the academic community.'"

The Russell Group believes that the weighting given to impact should be considerably lower than 20% for the first exercise and that only if and when the problems with the methodology are resolved and the assessment gains the confidence of the academic community, should the weighting be increased. Giving such a high weighting to such a new and untested assessment adds a further element of uncertainty and risk to a sector which is already subject to a period of considerable change and instability. It is essential that the HE sector and other stakeholders are confident in the REF process."

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