Introductory Editorial: The Politics Of Research Assessment Exercises And Accountability – An International Overview

Richard Smith
Vol 27, Number 1-2, p.1
This paper acts as an introduction to the individual presentations in this collection and to the underlying discourses of international research assessment exercises and accountability. It is now over two decades since the United Kingdom (UK) introduced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in 1986. Since this time academic institutions, notably the universities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been subjected to five further RAEs, the latest of which occurred in 2008. Hong Kong, a former British colony whose sovereignty as a SAR (Special Administrative Region) was “returned” to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, had its own version of the RAE as early as 1993, and has had three subsequent evaluations since, the last one in 2006. By contrast the New Zealand equivalent research evaluation, the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF), began in 2002 with a second and partial round in 2006, and the next full round scheduled for 2012. Unlike its counterparts in the UK and Hong Kong where the unit of analysis for evaluation is the academic unit (or department), Aotearoa/New Zealand academics are rated on an individual basis. Australian higher education is also beginning on a path for its own variant of the RAE/PBRF. Initially planned for 2006 then postponed until 2008, the then named Research Quality Framework (RQF), was abolished in 2007 by the incoming Federal Labour Government. The Kevin Rudd led government has replaced it with a new initiative called the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), scheduled to commence in 2009 (see Watson, 2008).