The HEFC said that it would be assessing research grants by rating each institution on a scale of 1 to 5, according to the quality of its research, on the basis of a research assessment exercise. The council issued a circular letter to all interested institutions inviting submissions and announcing that the assessment exercise would be carried out on a peer review basis by a number of specialist panels. It detailed how research would be assessed and how it would be rated but indicated that there would be no appeal from the individual ratings given to the institutions by the council. The applicant institute's submissions were assessed by a panel of eight specialists who gave their initial ratings by secret ballot. P sought judicial review when they got a low rating and were not given reasons for the decision. QBD held that academic institutions were not in the category of cases that required reasons to be given to ensure fairness: informed academic judgments were enough to ensure that fairness was met.
Sedley J: “The giving of reasons may among other things concentrate the decision-maker's mind on the right questions.” “Fairness alone will not requirereasons to be given”. Only if the court felt that the decision was “aberrant” would the reason giving duty be triggered.