Monday, December 22, 2008

Open University's RAE performance is worth noting

'The Open University has climbed 23 places to 43rd in the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008), securing a place in the UK’s top 50 higher education institutions.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brenda Gourley said “I am delighted with this major improvement in our research rankings, the second largest improvement in the UK top 50, which provides further evidence of the quality and stature of the University and allows us to celebrate 40 years as a major UK institution that delivers world-leading excellence in teaching, research and knowledge transfer”.

The results show over 50% of the University’s research is ‘internationally excellent’ (3*) and 14% is ‘world-leading’ (4*), as determined by the 2008 RAE’s expert and peer review process. The quality of our research is matched by its breadth - with units submitted from all seven faculties.

Professor Brigid Heywood, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, commented “The results justify our strategic decisions to nurture key strengths, build a rich and sustainable research environment and develop and grow centres of excellence across a wide discipline range”.

The University’s design group – spanning areas from design thinking, to sustainability and complexity - ranks third in the UK out of a field of 71. The Centre for Research in Computing at the OU has jumped 33 places to joint 19th place, just below York, Bristol and Bath.

The strength and excellence of the research supported by the OU Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research was also acknowledged with over 70% of its multidisciplinary submission deemed internationally excellent and world-leading, achieving 3*/4* rankings.

Another strategic success is the placing of Development Studies at equal 4th with Bath University; the work of this group underpins our programme of activities in Africa.

The improved placing of the OU’s Social Work submission, coupled with our signature successes in both Education and Sociology, exemplify the quality and breadth of the University’s research and reinforce our international reputation for innovative and rigorous research that influences policy and enhances practice.

Overall, the University has seen significant improvements in a number of key discipline areas, with notably strong performances in two new subject units and, in the challenging and competitive environment of the last few years, it has enhanced or maintained its 2001 ranked positions in most disciplines. A 75% growth in competitively awarded research income over the last five years is another robust measure of our increasing research excellence. '

Despite the systemic distortions of exercises such as the RAE all those involved in the OU's submission are to be congratulated. Perhaps one day we will have an institution-based model for research quality that cultivates difference and diversity and allows the fostering of inter and transdisiplinary areas such as Systems!