NPC/03/11/A: Higher Education Funding Council for England, Review of Research Funding Methods Consultation

This section...

Also in Consultations 2003...

by Tim Brown

Proposal 1

For the duration of the current RAE funding cycle, we propose to distribute the funds available for the leading 5* departments between:

  • departments rated 5* in both 1996 and 2001, and
  • departments rated 5* for the first time in 2001 which achieved this without a drop in the number of staff submitted.

We envisage that the amount of grant allocated in this way for 2004-05 will be similar to the £20 million we have allocated for 2003-04.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 1?

We disapprove.

This appears, in our view, to be a further step of over-concentration of research funding, which is largely aimed at those with a historical record of excellence. We would wish to seek evidence from 5* rated departments that they do have significant numbers of research active staff, which demonstrate the ability to maintain their research excellence.

Proposal 2

We propose to maintain the sum available for allocation to institutions with 4-rated departments at £118 million, allocated through our present formula. We wish institutions to consider how best to respond to our policy aim for the continuing selective development of promising departments and units. We also propose to maintain our funding for capability in selected subjects until the next RAE, and to keep the list of eligible subjects under review.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 2?

We disapprove

It is a concern for us as to what the future of funding for 4 rated departments will be, with the threat of losing emerging potential research from 3a and 3b departments. We are concerned about the loss of infrastructure that would result from this using the proposed formulas.

Proposal 3

The Government has earmarked £8 million for additional capital support for the leading research institutions. We propose to allocate this by formula to four institutions with the greatest amount of high quality research (using the same measure of research income as for SRIF). This funding will be subject to satisfying ourselves that these institutions have strong and appropriate management and governance arrangements.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 3?

We strongly disapprove

It does not make sense to us how funding can justifiably be restricted to the leading institutions. This will restrict funding towards a limited number of subject areas and limit resources to a group of postgraduate students who may not necessarily be receiving the supervision and training they require to extend their research further.

Proposal 4

We will use the Strategic Development Fund actively to promote substantial research collaborations, and propose to seek opportunities for mainstreaming collaboration through the design of other funding streams. We welcome suggestions for what more we might do to recognise and support collaborative activity through the RAE and QR funding.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 4?

We approve

Proposal 5

We propose to establish a Promising Researcher Fellowship Scheme. In designing the scheme we will look for ways to encourage lasting collaborative relationships between HEIs.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 5?

We Approve

This could help improve the potential of researchers and we would encourage the idea, although we are concerned about the possible loss of researchers in smaller institutions that could result. We would therefore encourage this scheme to be adopted on the basis that it is encouraging researchers to work on a collaborative level. This will help strengthen less research intensive units with the chance that their research will grow significantly.

Proposal 6

We propose from 2005-06 to pull together the Councils supervision fund grant for students on research degree programmes into a single stream within the block grant for research; and to pay this at a level reflecting a study of RDP costs to be conducted in the meantime. We also propose to investigate further the options for maintaining the level of grant per student and for supporting collaborative provision.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 6?

We approve

Although we approve here, we do see both advantages and disadvantages in this situation and wish to note this carefully. This could allow funding to be suitably invested in supervision and training where necessary when it could easily be used not for the benefit of the research student. However, at the same time it is possibly limiting the research funding for the department that the postgraduate is working within. It is concerning therefore as to whether better research supervision and training for the postgraduate will result in restrictive regulations on research funding in departments that limit the research the student can carry out. We would stress here that funding is considered both in terms of whether research environment is maintained as well as structured supervision and training.

Proposal 7

We propose to cease counting numbers of postgraduate research students within the QR volume measure with effect from 2005-06.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 7?

We disapprove

This does concern us with regard to what the role of the postgraduate research student is. In one context they are learning to research and in the other they are actively working as researchers and contributing to the vital infrastructure of the research unit. We do believe number of active full time equivalent research students does make a significant impact on the QR volume.

Another large concern of ours is how this is identified in a European setting. The National Postgraduate Committee is part of a European organisation, Eurodoc (www.eurodoc.net) and within this forum we have had much debate as to whether those undertaking PhDs are students or researchers. In southern European countries, those undertaking PhDs are strictly researchers and are employed as such even though they are pursuing an academic qualification. Within the UK they are students, although still undertaking research at an early stage, and should be identified differently to taught postgraduates in this regard. This issue is also apparent within the Bologna declaration, which is trying to introduce doctoral research as a unique cycle of higher education.

Proposal 8

We propose to move towards funding arrangements following the next RAE in which all of the minor volume indicators are eliminated, and the treatment of charity funding better reflects our policy aims and the imperative for sustainability. In the meantime we propose to prevent significant growth in the amount of QR funding allocated using each of the indicators as set out above.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 8?

We neither approve or disapprove

Proposal 9

We propose to review the basis for subject weightings and to calculate new weightings to be used after the next RAE. We welcome views on how this might be done. We do not propose to undertake further work on a possible policy factor to be incorporated in our allocations, unless a significant number of our partners and stakeholders feel that this now merits further investigation.

Do you approve or disapprove of Proposal 9?

We neither approve or disapprove