Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the Joint Committee for Resources in Higher Education

  I am writing in my capacity as Chair of the Joint Committee for Resources in Higher Education. The Joint Committee is the umbrella group for the three main bodies that represent British Psychology: The British Psychological Society, (with over 40,000 members), the Experimental Psychology Society (with 600 members) and the Association of Heads of Psychology Departments representing (over 100 Departments).

  We wish to submit comments in relation to the call for evidence for the inquiry into the steps being taken to safeguard an adequate level of science teaching and research across universities in England. Accordingly, attached are two responses, one prepared by the Research Board of the British Psychological Society and the other prepared by the Experimental Psychology Society (which has already been submitted to you directly by the EPS). The Association of Heads of Psychology Departments has not prepared a separate response but it is supportive of the general comments outlined in the BPS and EPS submissions.

  We wish to draw your attention to the following common themes of both submissions:

  1.  The RAE-linked funding formula will continue to produce substantial effects on the quality of HE provision in this country—the impact of which will be felt by students, academic staff and ultimately society. The funding formula has become overly weighted towards 5* and 5 rated departments.

  2.  We believe that increased concentration of researchers in a small number of university departments would have serious consequences for research, due to the potential lack of recognition of excellent individuals who may not be employed at these "centres of excellence", which may stifle creativity and scientific development. This may in turn, result in increasing problems of attracting good young researchers into academia as the number of positions that are available to them diminishes.

  3.  We believe that concentrating top researchers in just a few university departments would seriously impact on the quality of teaching that would be afforded to the undergraduate and postgraduate populations, with consequent implications for the research base of this country.

  4.  We are particularly concerned, given changes in the weightings given to Psychology in particular in the teaching funding formula, that university income "generated" by the large numbers of Psychology undergraduates is no longer sufficient to support the teaching of science subjects to the levels needed to support a proper education based on quantitative experimental approaches. Without adequate science-based funding, we are in danger of no longer being able to provide the intensity of practical scientific teaching, and the associated transferable skills, that this country's economy has enjoyed to-date.

  Psychology is the fastest growing subject in science, however, many departments are now stretched to intolerable levels.

  5.  A balance must be struck in research-active departments between support for nationally and internationally recognized research, and support for teaching.

  6.  Maintaining regional capacity in science teaching and research is essential.

  7.  Whilst it is appropriate that HEFCE continue to manage funding provision of different subjects, we would urge HEFCE to encourage the collection of data which do more adequately reflect the true teaching cost. This disparity, between actual cost and the costs on which formula funding are based, is particularly noticeable in the case of the teaching of science subjects, and is certainly the case with our own subject, Psychology.

February 2005

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