Sir: We would like to endorse the view expressed by Sir Douglas Hague in his article "The wrong debate on university standards" (30 August) relating to research in higher education.
We are a training and consultancy unit of the University of the West of England, working in the field of competence-based learning and assessment. Our clients include the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, training and enterprise councils, awarding bodies, industry training organisations, commercial companies, voluntary organisations and local authorities. In the course of our commercial activity we undertake research work and evaluation required by our clients to assist them in the pursuance of their business. Organisations pay for our work because they find the outcomes relevant and useful.
Recent examples of our research include issues such as raising achievement in TEC programmes at NVQ level 3 and developing a national assessment framework for trainees on government programmes with special training needs. However, very little of this will count towards the research assessment exercise conducted within the university.
For the uninitiated, this is the process which produces research funding to faculties and departments within higher education institutions from the Higher Education Funding Council. It is based on a paradigm of research which will not tend to include our activity, since the work we undertake for our clients does not, by and large, produce learned papers which appear in "referenced journals" on library shelves.
Accredited Training Centre
University of the West