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Issue 479, 18 March 2002

Senate news

As widely predicted, the government failed to fund the results of the 2001 RAE, leaving universities across the country facing hard decisions in devising a fair redistribution of funds to their researchers.

Our research grant for 2002-3 is 28,589,000, a packed Senate was told, of which 27,700,000 will be allocated to departments after 'topslicing' for equipment and animal licence fees.

This is 4m less than we would have received had the RAE been properly funded – but 3m more than last year's research allocation.

HEFCE has promised to address the shortfall for grade four and five-rated subjects as soon as possible. For Leeds, that will make a big difference – with 44 subjects rated four or five. We hope to know in July – when the Comprehensive Spending Review is announced – if this will happen next year.

Meanwhile, the University is attempting to devise a formula to distribute this year's limited resources equitably.

This job has been complicated by the funding council's methodology, based on fixed pots of money for each subject and allocations depending on the 'relative performance' of researchers across the country.

As a result, researchers in different subjects are being rewarded differently for the same achievement. In areas where there are many high scores, there is less money for each five and five* researcher. As one member of Senate complained – 'a five should mean a five should mean a five'.

Strict application of the HEFCE formula would appear to discriminate in a number of ways, such as where there has been a substantial uplift in grades across the country, like English, Medicine and Law.

On the other hand, our own formula for distributing research funds, although able to accommodate local circumstances, and in line with departmental research budgets, would have a detrimental effect upon a different set of departments.

It was agreed that academic development committee on April 10 will devise an appropriate formula, taking into account Senate's concerns. ADC has already set aside 800,000 to support strategic plans to improve research in departments graded four and below.

A proposal to cut bureaucracy by moving towards fewer, larger resource centres – perhaps nine 'colleges' – was greeted with interest.

Further work was needed, Senate agreed, to develop models and case studies illustrating how the plans might address the administrative burden on academics.

Change would need to be evolutionary, taking into account the need for academics to retain control of academic activities, Senate agreed. Any claimed benefits or efficiency gains needed to be clearly demonstrated, to avoid the risk of creating another layer of bureaucracy.

The enhancement of working lives – at all levels – was another important priority, it was agreed.

See the full proposal.

A new model for allocating the Library's materials budget between departments has been agreed by Senate. The model will be in place for the academic year 2002/2003 and will be reviewed after one year.

In debate, the large majority of Senate members supported the new model, saying its transparent, managed approach would bring substantial improvements.

See the full proposal

Dr Helen Miller of biological sciences and Professor José Closs, Ms Janet Jagger, Professor Philip Quirke and Professor Christopher Wild from medicine, dentistry, psychology and health have been elected to Senate by their faculties for three years from August 2002.

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