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RAE 2008 - Assessment Methodology and Panel Make - Up

Originally Published 23 July 2004
RAE 2008
RAE 2008

The objective of the RAE is to assess the quality of research taking place in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the UK. Funding is subsequently awarded on a sliding scale of excellence. It is designed to encourage HEIs to improve research standards, and the RAE 2008 will judge a full range of applied and practice-based research. HEFCE will ensure that the assessment panels are well-equipped to participate from a practitioner or user perspective.

A new classification system will grant the best departments a maximum star rating of 4, with the new minimum category being ‘unclassified’. HEFCE will publish guidelines in 2005 to further explain the assessment criteria.

Most 2008 RAE assessment will focus on a discipline-based framework due to the impracticalities of judging interdisciplinary work. With an assessment system by which 1-2 per cent of the research community judge the work of the rest, it is unrealistic to set up further dedicated panels to cover every field and discipline. However, where interdisciplinary work is assessed, HEFCE guarantee the appointment of additional field experts to guide the rating.

Assessment panels will treat excellence in applied research equally to excellence in basic research. They will provide the specific criteria for excellence and lay out the required evidence to be considered in applying these criteria. The issue of research in HE pedagogy has been discussed, and this assessment poses challenges, including the pedagogy of specific disciplines. However, HEFCE do not want to discourage the submission of such work, and it is the decision of the institution whether to submit to the education sub-panel or to discipline panels. HEFCE encourage and support joint submissions between departments in the same institutions and submissions by more than once institution.

The Assessors

A significant difference in RAE 2008 is the new two-tier system of assessment panels. These will consist of 15 main panels, managing 70 sub-panels, and covering 66 subject areas. Each panel will work with a manageable, largely related group of no fewer than three sub-panels. There have been modifications to the divisions between Units of Assessment (UoAs) and their grouping within the main panels, mainly within the medical, education and social sciences brackets. The list of UoAs and the grouping of sub-panels is available in Annex A of Units of Assessment and Recruitment of Panel Members on the RAE website:

Main Panels
The main panels will consists of the chair, chairs of each of the relevant sub-panels, one or two international assessors (where possible and appropriate), and others with specific expertise, as well as observers.

Main panel members will be individuals with a personal record of research at the highest level. They will be responsible leading and overseeing the work of the sub-panels, and ensuring their understanding of the assessment criteria and consistent application of the criteria. The main panels will sign off quality profiles for all submissions to the sub-panels, and they will produce the final reports.

The sub-panels will be appointed by the funding body’s Chief Executive, after considering nominations received and taking advice from main panel chairs and from those who served as panel members in 2001. The sub-panels will consist of individuals who will mainly be practising researchers of appropriate personal standing and expertise. They will have significant experience in a broad research environment, ideally including business and public sector, or overseas work. HEFCE hopes for the re-employment of past panel RAE panel members, and expect at least a third of the members of each sub-panel to have previous RAE panel experience.

The sub-panels will generate draft criteria for assessments, and within the final agreed criteria will produce draft quality profiles. They will also advise on cross-referrals to other sub-panels for interdisciplinary work, as well as any necessary specialist advice. Specialist advisors will be recruited centrally by the RAE team on the advice of chairs of sub-panels and main panels. The working methods of the specialist advisors will be finalised once the working methods for the sub-panels have been announced. The main panels will collaborate closely with the sub-panels to discuss development.

Advertisements will soon appear in the specialist press inviting applications for appointment as the main panel chairs.

Sub-panel members will be appointed by nomination. The form is available at and the deadline for nominations is 15th September 2004.

HEFCE will recruit a team of panel secretaries in the coming months, who will service the main and sub-panels. They aim to announce the membership of the assessment panels towards the end of 2004.

Key Dates

15 September 2004 Deadline for nominations for sub-panel members
September 2004 Main panel chairs appointed
November/December 2004 Panel membership announced
November/December 2004 Guidance for panels issued
February 2005 First round of panel meetings begins
June 2005 Guidance on submissions issued
August 2005 Draft criteria and working methods of main panels and sub-panels issued for consultation
November/December 2005 Final criteria and working methods of main panels and sub-panels issued
31 July 2007 End of assessment period (and cut-off point for publication of cited outputs)
31 October 2007 Census date
30 November 2007 Closing date for submissions
December 2008 Results Published

Read HEFCE’s full explanation of the Units of Assessment and Recruitment of Panel Members on the RAE 2008 website –

Read other articles on RAE 2008 on insite: