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Universities get no cash guarantee for managing postgrads

THES reporters look at the new Roberts report on the assessment of research

The funding councils have asked universities to help them develop threshold standards for delivering postgraduate research programmes.

But they have warned that complying with the standards would not ensure money for research degrees. Ratings from the research assessment exercise are likely to be taken into account, despite responses to a previous consultation that said there was no necessary correlation between RAE ratings and the quality of the research-training environment.

The standards will be compulsory for departments with publicly funded research degrees. Validation would probably become part of the Quality Assurance Agency's remit during institutional audits from 2006-07.

The funding councils launched a consultation this week in conjunction with the research councils and the Arts and Humanities Research Board. It takes into account responses to the previous consultation, saying that it is unreasonable to expect institutions to have a minimum five research-active staff and ten research students. It asks institutions to propose suitable thresholds.

The consultation lays down suggestions for a voluntary framework of good practice, following reviews that showed that many institutions were overlooking their role in the development of research and other skills in their students.

The minimum standards include: introducing a code of practice; more than 70 per cent of submissions to be made within four years; new supervisors to receive institutionally specified training; the main supervisor to have prime responsibility for a maximum of six students; the institution to help student access; training to develop research skills; and a publicised, fair, transparent, robust and consistent complaints and appeals procedure.

Responses are due by September 30.

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