A comparison of research concentration and postgraduates in England's Universities

NPC's main policy in the higher education strategy is against the concentration of research funding due to the implications it will have on limited availability of postgraduate courses in some regions and the decline in postgraduate choice. By reviewing the current Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) allocations recently released the cumulative and regional distribution of research funding compared to the distribution of postgraduates is compared.

Cumulative Spread of Funding and Postgraduates

Out of the 1bn allocated to Universities, who hold the vast majority of postgraduates (note this does not include the specialist colleges of the University of London) there is a clear indication that less than 30% of postgraduates in England are based within institutions that hold more than 63% of funding. With a large proportion of research and taught postgraduate courses requiring access to and engagement with research, this does hold concerns. This information was taken from the recently published HEFCE allocations [1] and the latest available statistics from the higher education statistics agency (2001/02) [2]. Postgraduate percentages are FTE numbers, where two part time postgraduates are considered as one postgraduate.

table1

Already a limited percentage of postgraduates are placed where a vast proportion of research funding is held and whether this will shift the percentages of postgraduates to create a stronger correlation will need to be observed in the future.

Geographical Distribution

Also geographical distribution is another important factor to consider. 40% of the research funding, totalling to nearly half a billion is allocated to the top 7 best funded institutions. Only one of these is outside London and the South East and only 13% of FTE postgraduates are concentrated into these institutions. This amounts to over 35,000 postgraduates. Beyond this the top funded institutions have a sketchy distribution around England.

Referring to the following table, the funding allocations have been considered by region. In terms of research funding, Open University is considered as in the South East since most of the research will operate at its base in Milton Keynes. It can be seen that 50% of funding will be concentrated to the South East, which is holding 40% of the postgraduates (where the inclusion of the Open University does not make a significant difference to the percentages). A reasonable consistency is shown between distribution of funding and postgraduates within England other than in the Midlands. This table only considers Universities in different regions. Colleges of higher education and specialist colleges of the University of London account for less than 7% of the total funds, which have not been considered here.

table2

Further detail in the table below shows that within the South East there is a greater concentration even towards London where there is just under 25% of research funding with 20% of England's postgraduates.

table3

Summary

A brief note of the cumulative and regional distribution of research funding in English Universities has been presented to compare it with the latest available postgraduate numbers. There is not necessarily a high comparison of percentages of postgraduates in highly funded institutions although the regional distribution of research funding does appear to follow a similar distribution to that of postgraduates by region. These results do not consider Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, who will be supported under different funding streams.

References

  1. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) allocations for 2004/05, http://www.hefce.ac.uk/Pubs/hefce/2004/04_12/
  2. Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Institution Level Statistics for 2001/02, http://www.hesa.ac.uk/holisdocs/pubinfo/student/institution0102.htm