Monday, 19 November 2012

Stats, Black Eyes and Feathers in Caps

'No sir, a reduction in applications is a definite Feather in
your Cap'
As any research administrator worth their salt will know, The Times Higher published the annual stats for RCUK awards last week. In universities across the land there's fevered analysis, trying to work out (like Colonel Cathcart) whether they represent a Black Eye or a Feather in the Cap - or both, simultaneously.

After all the recent mission group shenanigans, I thought it would be interesting to see how the internecine factions within the Russell Group and 94 Group are performing. For this exercise, I've averaged out the figures for the following four groups:

  • RG Old: i.e. the original Russell Group, namely Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial, KCL, Leeds, Liverpool, LSE, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, QUB, Sheffield, Southampton, UCL, Warwick
  • RG New: i.e. those that jumped ship from 94 Group and joined the RG in the summer, namely York, Durham, Exeter, QMUL 
  • 94 Former: i.e. those that jumped ship from 94 Group but are currently unaligned, Bath, St Andrews, Surrey 
  • 94 Current: i.e. Birkbeck, UEA, Essex, Goldsmiths, IoE, RHUL, Lancaster, Loughborough, Reading, SOAS, Sussex.

So, first, let's look at overall award value:

No surprise there: the old, 'big science' universities are getting the lion's share of the funding. What is interesting though, is that those universities that recently left the 94 Group to wander in the wilderness are actually generating more RCUK income than those that were invited into the hallowed portals of the RG earlier in the year.

Next application number:

Once again, no surprise: application numbers are down across the board. This is probably largely due to the Research Councils demanding demand management. They want less applications so their success rates don't look quite so pitiful. Interesting, again, the recent departees are putting in more than the newly anointed RGers. Some would say that the newly anointed are showing their quality: less is more. Others might say they are lazy laggards. I couldn't possibly comment.

Next, award number:

Once again, the Russell Group reign supreme, getting almost double the number of awards as their new intake. There had better be some sock pulling amongst those whipper-snappers. Moreover, RG are getting, on average, four times as many as the remaining 94 Group.

Finally, success rate:

A tight cluster here, around the late twenties/early thirties, but interestingly the wandering homeless outdo the folk on the hill (both old and new money).

So what to make of all this? I'll leave that to my fellow research administrators to decide on black eyes/feathers in their caps, and ultimately stats can be twisted to mean whatever you want them to mean (a nice blog post on this from Cash4Questions, here), but I hope it provides a pause for thought and a rethink about how we see ourselves.

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