Physics Funding by Numbers

I just read today that HEFCE has decided on the way funds will be allocated for research following the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. I have blogged about this previously (here, there and elsewhere), but to give you a quick reminder the exercise basically graded all research in UK universities on a scale from 4* (world-leading) to 1* (nationally recognized), producing for each department a profile giving the fraction of research in each category.

HEFCE has decided that English universities will be funded according to a formula that includes everything from 2* up to 4* but with a weighting 1:3:7.  Those graded 1* and unclassified get no funding at all. How they arrived at this formula is anyone’s guess. Personally I think it’s a bit harsh on 2* which is supposed to be internationally recognized research, but there you go.

Assuming there is also a multiplier for volume (i.e. the number of people submitted) we can now easily produce another version of the physics research league table which reveals the relative amount of money each will get. I don’t know the overall normalisation, of course.

The table shows the number of staff submitted (second column) and the overall fundability factor based on a 7:3:1 weighting of the published profile multiplied by the figure in column 2. This is like the “research power” table I showed here, only with a different and much steeper weighting (7,3,1,0) versus (4,3,2,1).

1. University of Cambridge 141.25 459.1
2. University of Oxford 140.10 392.3
3. Imperial College London 126.80 380.4
4. University College London 101.03 298.0
5. University of Manchester 82.80 227.7
6. University of Durham 69.50 205.0
7. University of Edinburgh 60.50 184.5
8. University of Nottingham 44.45 144.5
9. University of Glasgow 45.75 135.0
10. University of Warwick 51.00 130.1
11. University of Bristol 46.00 128.8
12. University of Birmingham 43.60 126.4
13. University of Southampton 45.30 120.0
14. Queen’s University Belfast 50.00 115.0
15. University of Leicester 45.00 114.8
16. University of St Andrews 32.20 104.7
17. University of Liverpool 34.60 96.9
18. University of Sheffield 31.50 92.9
19. University of Leeds 35.50 88.8
20. Lancaster University 26.40 88.4
21. Queen Mary, University of London 34.98 85.7
22. University of Exeter 28.00 77.0
23. University of Hertfordshire 28.00 72.8
24. University of York 26.00 67.6
25. Royal Holloway, University of London 27.96 67.1
26. University of Surrey 27.20 65.3
27. Cardiff University 32.30 64.6
28. University of Bath 20.20 63.6
29. University of Strathclyde 31.67 60.2
30. University of Sussex 20.00 55.0
31. Heriot-Watt University 19.50 51.7
32. Swansea University 20.75 48.8
33. Loughborough University 17.10 41.9
34. University of Central Lancashire 22.20 41.1
35. King’s College London 16.40 38.5
36. Liverpool John Moores University 16.50 35.5
37. Aberystwyth University 18.33 23.8
38. Keele University 10.00 18.0
39. Armagh Observatory 7.50 13.1
40. University of Kent 3.00 4.5
41. University of the West of Scotland 3.70 4.1
42. University of Brighton 1.00 1.8

It looks to me that the fraction of funds going to the big three at the top will probably be reduced quite significantly, although apparently there are  funds set aside to smooth over any catastrophic changes. I’d hazard a guess that things won’t change much for those in the middle.

I’ve left the Welsh and Scottish universities in the list for comparison, but there is no guarantee that HEFCW and SFC will use the same formula for Wales and Scotland as HEFCE did for England. I have no idea what is going to happen to Cardiff University’s funding at the moment.

Another bit of news worthing putting in here is that HEFCE has protected funding for STEM subjects (Science, Technology and Medicine) so that the apparently poor showing of some science subjects (especially physics) compared to, e.g., Economics will not necessarily mean that physics as a whole will suffer. How this works out in practice remains to be seen.

Apparently also the detailed breakdowns of how the final profiles were reached will go public soon. That will make for some interesting reading, although apparently everything relating to individual researchers will be shredded to prevent problems with the data protection act.

7 Responses to “Physics Funding by Numbers”

  1. Bryn Jones Says:

    That’s all very interesting.

    The weighting scale certainly does the top four universities a lot of favours, and may be designed to do that. Oxford and Cambridge do so well by combining high quality profiles with large numbers of staff.

    It is disappointing that individual results will not be made available to the researchers concerned. I’d really have liked to have seen my own assessment, as many other people would. I was included in an internal university mock R.A.E. in which the staff’s nominated best four papers were assessed by an anonymous panel brought in from outside; we were given our own results confidentially, although I suspect the real R.A.E. scores may have been a little more generous than the mock ones. It would be interesting to know how highly (or lowly) the R.A.E. panel assessed our own work, rather than merely the combined assessment in the assessed subject for the university, even if it were only to understand how the system had functioned on our own work.

  2. telescoper Says:

    Bryn, not all the RAE profile comes from the papers. Some is awarded for “esteem” and “environment”, including counts of prestigious fellowships and numbers of PhD students produced etc. We’ll find out how these were rated as well as the papers and also the raw scores (not rounded to 5% as in the tables that have been released so far).

  3. Bryn Jones Says:


    Yes, that’s right, esteem indicators and environment contributed to the final result. How in practice the panels managed to assess this in practice is
    anybody’s guess. I can imagine most departments claiming something similar for environment.


  4. […] results of the latest Research Assessment Exercise (which I’ve blogged about here, there and everywhere). To my dismay he announced that HEFCW are indeed going to use the 0:1:3:7 weighting formula […]

  5. […] think I’ve made it clear (here, here, here, here and here) that I think the RAE was a bit of a botch generally and that Physics was […]

  6. […] 29th, when HEFCE announced its funding algorithm (7,3,1,0 for buckets 4,3,2,1 respectively) he gave another league table showing expected relative funding, with Cardiff now 27th. (Note however that the Welsh and Scottish […]

  7. […] blogged about the RAE results before: here, there, elsewhere, et cetera and passim. Andy Lawrence (e-astronomer) has now written a blog post about the latest publications from HEFCE […]

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