Funding of research in higher education : a panoptic view of the RAE
The thesis investigates the effects that the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) has on the Higher Education sector. The alternative view presented by the thesis is that more knowledge can be created by concentrating on the different constituents of the RAE and their specific interactions with particular areas of the Higher Education sector. The RAE constituents are interpreted as drivers that influence and impact, in dissimilar fashions, on different activities of Higher Education Institutions (HEI). This micro analysis of the RAE enables the investigation to isolate the single effects of the RAE drivers therefore creating a bottom-up analysis of the overall impact of the RAE. The analysis of the impact that the drivers have on HEIs’ activities focuses on the perception that individuals within the system have of the consequences of the RAE. The focus on perceptions derives from personal observation of the lack of consensus on the consequences that different drivers have on different areas. The use of perceptions as the mean to assess the impact of the RAE enables the investigation to create a picture of the consequences of the RAE that addresses behavioural change. A multi-dimensional crystal view approach is used to accommodate both the micro analysis and the perception assessment. The multi-dimensional crystal view, a research contribution in its own right, is based on the principle that a micro analysis of a complex system can be achieved by decomposing the system into a number of dimensions. Insight is draw when the interactions between some of the dimensions are investigated. In the specific case of the RAE the dimension are: the RAE drivers, HEIs’ activities and points of observation (dimension that captures perceptions). Knowledge and insight can be acquired when the interactions between the dimensions are aggregated at successive higher levels. The supporting tool for the multidimensional crystal view approach is a matrix that facilitates the analytical process. The aggregation of the dimensions comes from combining textual statements from the points of observation (perceptions) on the effects that the drivers of the RAE have on the activities of HEIs. The highest level is a textual statement that synthesises all lower level statements.