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December 18th, 2008

RAE!

I’ll talk about this more in the morning, but for now I just wanted to note St Andrews’ great performance in philosophy in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. St Andrews had the second highest percentage of their submitted work ranked in the top category, behind only University College London, and ahead of Oxford, among others.

I’ll say more about various ways of reading the data tomorrow, but one conclusion I’ll be drawing is that Leeds comes out of the project looking pretty good. That’s well deserved of course; Leeds is a great department. But it’s also nice from a St Andrews perspective to see the most prominent hirer of St Andrews grads in recent years be ranked so highly. Hopefully other departments who hire St Andrews grads in upcoming years will also do well!

Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized

6 Comments »

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6 Responses to “RAE!”

  1. lwalters says:

    St Andrews did do very well, but I’m not sure how you’ve managed to single Leeds out. Their RAE ranking was comparable to their Leiter ranking, perhaps worse depending on which particular metric you use.

    Of course Leeds is a very good department, but did they do any better than Bristol, LSE, Essex, Stirling, Birkbeck, Sheffield, Reading, Kings, Cambridge, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Oxford, St Andrews and UCL?

  2. Brian Weatherson says:

    I was looking at measures that considered both categories 3 and 4, not just category 4. By some of those measures they did rather well.

  3. jrgwilliams says:

    Hi there,

    I’m a rather biased commentator (being at Leeds)! But one thing to look for in the figures is the quantity of excellent research in the department (meeting some threshold, or weighted).

    You can construct this straight out of the tables by, for example, multiplying average quality grades by number of staff submitted. Leeds does extremely well on this index (it comes third in “research power” after Oxford and Cambridge).

    Another way of working this out is to multiply number of staff submitted by percentage that is world class (4*) or by work that is at least internationally excellent (3* or 4*). By my workings, on these averages Leeds comes 7th in the UK (after Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, KCL, UCL, Sheffield) or 3rd again (after Oxford and Cambridge).

    I’m of course not saying that these measures, relating to quantity of excellent research, are the only meaningful thing to get out of the data. But they do seem to me well worth thinking about.

    all bets
    Robbie

  4. Brian Weatherson says:

    Those are the kinds of measures I was thinking of when I was saying Leeds does well.

    There are a lot of ways of parsing the data, and certainly Leeds looks good on several of them.

  5. lwalters says:

    I agree there are many ways to look at the data and that how a department does depends on which measure one looks at.

    Leeds (and Oxbridge) does better on the absolute numbers than on the percentages, and depending on what one is interested in, that may well be the salient thing to concentrate on. But then of course St Andrews does less well, relatively speaking, on those measures.

    But that the third largest department does third best on Robbie’s “research power” is not surprising. Indeed the correlation coefficient for the research power and size rankings is 99%. Leeds also comes high up the ranking (which is not a good thing) on a similar “research weakness” measure looking at numbers of staff multiplied by 1 and 2 star percentages, although behind Oxford again.

    Anway, I’m not having a go at Leeds, as I said, I think it is a good department. Rather I just thought it a little incongruous to pick out St Andrews and Leeds.

  6. jrgwilliams says:

    Yeah, my take here is just that people have to be very careful in talking about “RAE rankings” or which department is “better than” another. Maybe GPA or whatever is really the best fix on that—-but we just gotta have some critical distance here.

    One semi-independent fix is to compare rankings to other rankings from independent sources. For example, in the Leiter reports, Oxford is constantly ranked way above anywhere else in the UK (and in the top category internationally). But on GPA etc it is in the midfield. Other rankings (in particular, 4* (world class) percentages multiplied by faculty size) tracks the most recent Leiter report rankings much more closely.

    Actually, I think what I’m learning from all this is what sort of factors reputational surveys plausibly are tracking!

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