The news that MPs on the innovation, universities and skills select committee are going to take a long, hard look at higher education is welcome — particularly in the light of the cock-up over grants. Undergraduate support is being cut after poor estimates were made of how many students were eligible for funds. The review will feed into the Government's review of top-up fees, providing some much-needed evidence on the extent to which the fees are hindering access.
We hope the committee will investigate another blunder, which will mean that universities can continue to play games to secure high rankings in the Research assessment Exercise. Universities no longer have to give details of exactly how many staff are active in research, which would have enabled observers to make a judgement about the strength of individual departments. The Higher Education Statistics Agency is blaming the Higher Education Funding Council for giving universities confusing advice on this issue. But a group of research-intensive universities threatened legal action if they were made to release information about staff numbers. If MPs can uncover what went on, the public should benefit.