The ERA (Excellence in Research Australia) results have just been released (ERA outcomes) and so all the universities will now be poring over the data with a fine-tooth comb to find some angle they can use to demonstrate their own excellence. Of course, we jumped straight to the Mathematical Sciences page, and were ecstatic to discover that Pure Maths at UWA has been given the top possible grade of “5”. The only other university to score a 5 in Pure Maths was ANU, and so basically the outcome is better than we could ever have hoped.

Of course, we can’t get carried away – the very notion of this kind of ranking is full of difficulties and contradictions, particularly when trying to make judgements between different disciplines. In particular, Pure Maths probably had a good head start over some other disciplines, in that our *natural* publication habits – namely, to publish strong completed results in the best possible international journals – align closely with the ERA criteria. So we were **already** trying to get our work into JCT-B and similar high-ranked journals and didn’t need the ERA to push us in that direction.

But, even though we have to take it all with a generous pinch of salt, it’s certainly a bit of a coup for our (extended) group, and seeing everyone believes that money will eventually follow the high ranked disciplines, it’s a great boost for the future of Pure Mathematics in the Faculty.

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Wish the teaching was up to this standard – not having any third year analysis is a joke

Sadly, for whatever reason, all of the most prestigious “rankings” take no notice whatever of the quality of education at a university. This is one of the reasons why so many Aust. universities are diverting their already meagre teaching funds to hire research superstars, who rarely deign to speak to an undergraduate…

In Canada, there is a much more comprehensive university ranking system carried out by Maclean’s magazine and there is a very noticeable negative correlation between the tables that measure “research focussed items” and the ones that measure “teaching or student focussed items”.

Only if you have infinite money, like Harvard say, can you manage to excel in both.

Someone in the research office at UniSA put me onto your blog. Well done on getting a 5 in the ERA results. A reward for doing good work and publishing in good journals. Also one in the eye for those maths snobs who never give enough credit to research not in analysis.