RAE illuminates work at Bristol
8 October 2007
Vice-Chancellor Professor Eric Thomas reflects on the University's RAE submission and the talent, industry and commitment that it represents at all levels.
Thursday 4 and Friday 5 October proved to be glorious days of sunshine and I had to spend them inside reading through the whole of the RAE submission. I don’t expect much sympathy – I’m hardly worth being called a Vice-Chancellor if I don’t take a close interest in a submission that will impact upon an income stream of £44 million per year to Bristol, never mind our league table place.
Even though I missed the sun, it was worth every moment. Some bits were easier to understand than others: Pure Mathematics tended to pass me by, as did most of Physics and Chemistry. It was also difficult for a medic to gauge the quality and impact of publications in Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities. However, I was able to gain a flavour of the diversity, depth and quality of all the work, especially from the written submissions, the RA5.
What is clear is that there is some extraordinary research being undertaken all over the University. The diversity of the areas of enquiry was simply staggering and the quality of a significant amount of the outputs quite uplifting. Research done in this University is making a real difference not only to the sum of human knowledge but also to the physical, social and cultural environment externally.
My assessment is that our established areas of excellence have continued to perform at the same level and that many other areas have significantly improved. It was also heartening to see how much of the work was interdisciplinary and aligned to our research themes. Arts and Humanities had particularly embraced these opportunities. It was also very positive that so much of the University could write that they had significant new investments planned. I genuinely believe that the next few years will see Bristol produce some extraordinary work as the investment matches the talent and the plans.
Of course, we won’t be the only University in the RAE and there is no guarantee that the reviewers will see the submission with the same rosy tinted spectacles as the Vice-Chancellor. What I am clear about is that we have done as well as we possibly could and that, combined with the professionalism of the team organising the submission, gives me comfort about the likely result. However, we never know and I could be eating my hat in late 2008, but I’ll take a bet I won’t be.
What I do know is that work of such quality demands talent and hard work. This submission is a testament to that in all of our staff, so well done and thank you. You made your Vice-Chancellor very proud in spite of his being behind curtains while the sun shone.