Thursday, 14 November 2013

Farewell to REF2014

Like many British academics, the last year of my life has been dominated by the horrors of the Research Excellence Framework, the quinquennial competition by which the UK government decides which universities and departments should receive funding to support their research. Like democracy, it is the worst possible system, only excepting all the alternatives.

There is not much that's edifying that can be said about it. But one set of statistics did strike me, once we had collated them.

Since 2008, this Department has awarded doctoral degrees to 114 students, which is pretty good in itself. But the more impressive figures are these: we know of 55 articles submitted to and accepted by refereed journals by our doctoral students while they were still here, and even better, we know of 45 - Durham Theology doctoral students who have gone on to secure their first academic jobs since 2008, 18 in the UK, the remainder in 12 other countries. Given that a large number of our doctoral students are practising ministers, retired people or others who aren't actually looking for academic employment, I think that's pretty good.

For all the flannel about fundraising and publications, I think one of the best indices of the health of an academic department is its postgraduates: not so much the absolute numbers, but how successfully it produces the next generation of scholars. And so I want to give us just the slightest self-awarded pat on the back.

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