Supplementary submission from the Arts
and Humanities Research Council following the oral evidence session
on 20 February 2008
AHRC RESPONSE TO
Further to the oral evidence session on the
20 of February, the AHRC welcomes this opportunity to provide
further information and clarification to the committee on some
of the issues raised.
1. The Minister and DG expressed surprise
that AHRC was making significant cuts in the first year of CSR07.
When did you brief DIUS about the cuts?
A representative of DIUS was present at the
meeting of Council on 21st November 2007. On that occasion Council
considered how to deal with low success rates in responsive mode
funding necessitated by the CSR result and decided to cancel a
Research Leave round. Council also decided to cut postgraduate
numbers and reallocate the moneys generated (for details, see
response to question 3 below). On 4th December 2007 in an email
to a DIUS officer the AHRC Chief Executive confirmed that in 2008-09
there would be 1000 new postgraduate awards in place of the 1,500
new awards in 2007-08.
2. What alternatives were discussed with the
As noted, a DIUS representative was present
at the strategic considerations of the Council at its meeting
on 21st November 2007.
3. What discussion have you had and at what
level with DIUS since 20 February?
We have assumed that the intent was to ask us
about discussions that have taken place after the oral evidence
session on the 21st, not the 20th. Since 21st February 2008 we
have received several emails from senior officers of DIUS requesting
factual information in relation to issues raised at the hearing
of the Select Committee on 21st February and we have made replies
thereto. During a meeting on Tuesday 4th March 2008, which had
been pre-arranged as part of the regular cycle of meetings between
the Minister of Science and Research Council Chief Executive and
which was attended by a senior DIUS officer, there was discussion
about the AHRC budget.
4. Why was the 15 January 2008 press release
The release on 15 January 2008 was a statement
and not a press release, in that it was only posted on our website
and not circulated to the media. It was placed there with a link
from our home page as a courtesy to our community so that they
could be made aware of the impact of CSR on our spending plans
over the next three years. We saw the statement as reflecting
our responsibility to be transparent to our academic community,
especially to allow them to plan research and postgraduate activities
in an effective manner.
By 15th January 2008 decisions had been made
on how best to manage our budget over the next three years and
it seemed only fair to inform the community of those decisions
so that people could plan ahead for their future award applications.
The submission of applications to the AHRCparticularly
in the case of research leaveis sometimes planned years
in advance and involves complex preparation for both individual
applicants and host institutions.
5. Why did this information not appear in
the Delivery Plan?
The Delivery Plan is a document focusing on
opportunities for a three year spending period and was aimed at
a variety of stakeholder audiences. It would not have been appropriate
to include in this high-level, aspirational document details of
reductions in individual schemes.
6. Why are such severe cuts to PhD places
in the first year necessary?
To understand our broad position in relation
to the reduction in new postgraduate awards over the CSR period,
it is necessary to set out the historical context, which has seen
a reduction in our new postgraduate awards driven by our decision
made five years ago to give greater priority to doctoral awards.
A paper presented to the AHRB Funding Group
in June 2003 clearly indicated how the AHRB saw its priorities
in respect of the development of the Postgraduate programmes.
It said inter alia, that:
`The budget priorities for the postgraduate programme
are derived from 2 sources:
(i) the Board's own review of the programme,
which recommended changes not only to the configuration of schemes
. . . . . ., but also that the balance of awards be shifted to
give greater priority to doctoral provision, and
(ii) the recommendations of the Robert's
reports SET for Success, which called for an increase in doctoral
stipends and greater support for research training.
The effect of responding positively to these
two sets of priorities was to increase the proposed expenditure
on the postgraduate programme by c. £17 million in total
over the four years 2003-04 to 2006-07. This was a direct result
of increasing stipends, providing funds for research and other
training and shifting the balance of awards from Masters to Doctoral.
It was recommended and subsequently agreed by
our funders that we should effect a shift in the balance of awards
commencing with the October 2003 competition. The intention was
that over the next five years, the shift would be completed and
we would reach steady stage with our new configuration by 2007-08.
It was clear that there would be cost implications
of making these changes since a doctoral award typically costs
three times as much as a Master's award. The intention was to
effect a more or less cost neutral shift in the balance of awards.
As far back as June 2003, it was acknowledged that it would be
necessary to reduce the total number of new awards to 1500 (previously
1600) to bring the 2 clusters in balance.
At the same time, the Roberts Review recommended
that doctoral stipends should be increased from £9,000 in
academic year 2003-04 to £12,000 in 2005-06. Holders of awards
in London receive an additional £2,000 p.a. The average stipend
was expected to rise to £13,000 p.a. A further recommendation
was that we should increase our funding for research training
support and as a result we now provide an allocation of £500
per doctoral award holder p.a. Unlike the other Research Councils,
the AHRC did not receive specific funding in SR02 to meet the
costs of these increases, but found the funds from within existing
As can be seen by the table below, the AHRC
has acted consistently with this policy.
|Research Prep Masters||554
|Professional Prep Masters||463
By 2007, the balance between Doctoral and Master's awards
had reached the required balance and was deemed to be in steady
state from there on.
The length of a PhD was also extended from 3 years to 3.5 years
to 4 years during this period, with associated increases in costs.
The indicative allocations letter from Keith O'Nions to Geoffrey
Crossick in February 2005 provided details of the sums to be made
available to support the cost of implementing the Roberts recommendations.
This amounted to £1.137 million in 2006-07 and £6.56
million in 2007-08.
Regarding levels of funding, the split between Doctoral and
Master's awards between 2005-06 and 2008-09 is as follows:
The increase in committed expenditure for Doctoral and Master's
awards between 2005-06 and 2007-08 was £5.5 millionless
than the sum that was provided to meet the requirements of the
Roberts report, as we had been directed to do by government.
The decision to increase the part-time stipend was not merely
an AHRC policy change, but reflected a requirement across the
Research Councils to harmonise our funding in this respect, and
address potential equal opportunities issues.
The immediate reason for the cuts in new postgraduate awards
in 2008-2009 and thereafter was the need to rebalance our budget
in the light of the CSR result. At a meeting with DIUS on 20th
November 2007 concern was expressed by DIUS that the proportion
of funding in this area was high relative to other research councils,
and that we were directing insufficient funds into strategic programmes.
The Council considered this question at its 21/11/07 meeting and
resolved to reduce post-graduate awards and redirect the sum of
approximately £11 million to cross-council and strategic
programmes over the CSR period. Achieving this result meant reducing
the number of new postgraduate awards to 1,000 in 2008-2009 (compared
with approximately 1,500 new awards in 2007-2008) and thereafter
making 1,325 new awards in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Because spending
on a particular cohort of new postgraduates extends across two
of our financial years, to secure a reasonable amount of resource
for cross-council and strategic programmes in 2008-2009 a large
reduction (ie from approximately 1,500 to 1,000) was required.
As with all Council meetings, a representative from DIUS was present
at the meeting on the 21st November 2007.
7. Was AHRC expecting a substantially different settlement?
DIUS had asked all Research to prepare expenditure forecasts
based on four possible scenarios ranging from -5% to +10% on current
8. In hindsight, did AHRC overstretch itself in terms of
commitments made during the last CSR period?
9. If so, what changes have been made to ensure that this
will not happen in the next spending round?
(Not applicable re. above).
CDA stands for Collaborative Doctoral Award-please note that these
awards are funded out of the AHRC's research budget-not the post-graduate