World standard research: it’s not what it used to be

The Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Agency specifies at least some of universities’ research must be “world standard”

Good-o, but the Australian Research Council looks like introducing new performance ranks in next year’s review of university research performance. Until now the ARC has assessed research at five levels from “well below” world standard to “well above”. World standard is average for all “universities worldwide.”

Critics have long suggested this is not that flash – given there is a bunch of ordinary research published around the world  and that work from Aus universities should be compared against the Europeans, UK and North America (and presumably elite) Chinese universities.

It appears the ARC takes the point – it proposes to change the existing categories for next year’s Excellence in Research for Australia review (CMM March 14).

Instead of the present, “well above world standard” and “world leading” there would be; high performers (A): “universities that are comparable to other high performing institutions,” high performers (AA) “universities that are clearly above the average expected of high performing institutions” and (AAA) “universities that are among the very small number of the best of the high performing institutions.”

Which would mean uni research at “world standard” would be average indeed.