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Most academics say the Research Assessment Exercise is a disaster. After nearly 15 years, is it time to change it?

By Gordon Marsden   January 2000

The time when dons’ reputations could be built on High Table bon mots and eccentric tutorial styles is now an age away. Earlier this year, in his inaugural lecture at the Institute of Historical Research, David Cannadine described “a large and depressed professoriate… with all the frenzied energy of battery chickens on overtime, laying for their lives.”

The Grand Inquisitor towards whom this frenzy is directed is the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), introduced in 1986 as a mechanism for ranking university performance which then acts as the lever to disburse money from the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFC). The HEFC…

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