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Shadow minister says REF ‘serves no purpose’

Image: Richard Townshend, [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Emma Hardy says there will be no return to ‘business as usual’ after Covid-19 crisis

The “discredited” Research Excellence Framework serves “no purpose” if higher education institutions are to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in a way that will benefit the national interest, the shadow universities minister has said.

Writing exclusively for Research Professional News on 15 April, Emma Hardy said that if the UK was to “maintain its reputation as a world leader in research, then research grants must be balanced and distributed regionally to create regional institutions of excellence”.

“The Research Excellence Framework has been discredited nearly as frequently as the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework and the space provided by the suspension of the REF due to Covid-19 opens the discussion on what makes for effective accountability,” she said.

“If we are to build a future based on cooperation, and universities acting in the national interest, then market-based accountability measures serve no purpose.”

REF director, Kim Hackett, announced on 24 March that the 2021 framework exercise had been put on hold because of disruption caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, and the need for universities to focus their research efforts on tackling the pandemic.

“There will be no ‘business as usual’ after the Covid-19 crisis,” Hardy adds. “The economic hit alone will reshape our high streets, levels of inequality and reliance on the state. It is clear that education will be one way our country climbs out of this crisis, and for that to succeed universities need to step up to the challenge and reshape, innovate and demand the changes needed to government policy.”

Research Professional News has approached Research England for comment. Research England carries out the REF alongside the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Scottish Funding Council.