Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Annex B

Current research funding method[15]

Determining the amount provided for each subject

  1.  The majority of the HEFCE's research funds are provided as quality-related (QR) funding divided between 69 subject areas, or Units of Assessment (it will be 68 for the 2001 RAE). In 1998-99, QR funding was £804 million, 97.6 per cent of total HEFCE research funds. Each subject is assigned to one of three cost weights and these are multiplied by the volume of research activity in each subject to work out the total funding for that subject.

2.  The three cost weights are:

high cost laboratory and clinical subjects
intermediate cost subjects

  3.  The volume of research in each Unit of Assessment is calculated using five separate components. These volume components are weighted as follows:

  4.  research active academic staff—1 x number of full-time equivalent (FTE) research active academic staff funded from general funds in departments rated 3b or above, selected by institutions for assessment in the RAE

    —  research assistants—0.1 x number of FTE research assistants

    —  research fellows—0.1 x number of FTE research fellows

    —  postgraduate research students—0.15 x weighted number of postgraduate research students in their second and third years of full-time study, or third to sixth years of part-time study

    —  research income from charities—each £25,000 of income from charities is treated as equivalent to 0.228 of 1FTE research active member of staff.

  5.  The number of research active academic staff is the most significant volume element; it accounts for about two-thirds of the total.

Distribution of the subject totals between institutions

  6.  The volume of research for each institution in each subject is measured using the same indicators as above. The subject totals are distributed to institutions in proportion to the amount or volume of research, multiplied by the quality of research in that subject for each institution. Funding is therefore proportional to volume x quality.

  7.  The quality of research is assessed by peer review in a Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) conducted every four or five years. The RAE conducted in 1996 has informed funding until 2001-02. The most recent assessment was in 2001. The RAE is the largest single research assessment exercise in the world: in 2001 it involved nearly 50,000 researchers, from 173 institutions, and 200,000 research outputs.

  8.  In 1996 each institution was awarded a rating, on a scale of 1 to 5* (five star), for the quality of its research in each Unit of Assessment in which it made a submission. The table below shows how these ratings related to the HEFCE funding provided. Ratings 1 and 2 attracted no funding, and from 3b upwards each rating attracted 50 per cent more funding than the one below, except 5* which attracted 20 per cent more funding than a 5 rating. This meant that a unit with a 5* rating attracted approximately four times as much funding as one with a rating of 3b for the same volume of research activity. As a result, funding of research is highly selective. In 1998-99, 75 per cent of HEFCE research funds went to 26 HEIs.



  Quality—For the purposes of the funding model, quality is expressed as a multiplier attached to each RAE grade. For example, in 1996 grades 1 and 2 attracted a multiplier of 0 (meaning no funding), 3b attracted a weight of 1 and, at the top of the scale, 5* attracted a multiplier of 4.05

  Volume—`Volume' is the HEFCE's approximation of research capacity. Research active staff submitted to the RAE are the main element of volume. Research students, research assistants and research funding from charities also contribute to the volume measure at a lower rate.

  Cost—At present all subjects are placed within one of three cost bands. At present the most expensive subjects attract a multiplier of 1.7, intermediate subjects a multiplier of 1.3 and the least expensive a multiplier of 1.

15   As employed in 2001-02 using data from the 1996 RAE. Back

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