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Alliance response to 1994 Group report on postgraduate provision

In response to the 1994 Group report ‘Analysis of postgraduate provision at UK universities’ Libby Aston, Director of University Alliance, said:

“This report is a helpful contribution to the evidence base on postgraduate provision but it is not the whole picture.

“Alliance universities deliver nearly 20% of all postgraduate provision.  Alliance universities awarded nearly 1,200 PhDs in 2007-08 in comparison to just over 3,000 from 1994 Group universities – with many delivered on a more flexible basis and in areas that are critical to the UK economy.

“In terms of value for money of public investment in PhDs, on average Alliance universities award twice as many PhDs per funding council research allocation as either the 1994 Group or the Russell Group research-intensive universities according to the HEFCE performance indicators.

“It is essential to look at the relationship between PhD quality, output, employability and completion rates but further work would be needed to understand this more fully.  Completion volume in relation to research and teaching staff is a measure of research intensity rather than quality or efficiency and tells us nothing about economic impact or value for money.

“It is clear that on the basis of quality alone, the appropriate unit of measurement is not the institution.  The UK system measures excellence at the discipline level and to change this to the institutional level would mask areas of world-leading research and PhD provision.  RAE 2008 results proved that there are many well-managed research centres outside the research-intensive universities that are making a significant contribution to both the UK research base and the economy.  The Faculty of Technology at the University of Plymouth, for example, has a 90% completion rate within 4 years and is helping to drive a rapid growth area in the new economy.

“The report does not provide sufficient evidence on which to restrict PhD funding to a particular group of universities – in fact it makes only cautious recommendations in this area.  As with research funding, the principle of funding excellence wherever it exists remains the best policy to ensure the future health of the UK research base and the most efficient use of public investment.”

“As major providers of professional and executive postgraduate qualifications, we welcome the recognition that postgraduate taught provision is a vital, thriving market with significant economic and social benefit to the UK.  Alliance universities are committed to widening access to both postgraduate taught and postgraduate research provision – both of which are essential for achieving a fair and prosperous society.”

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Notes for Editors

University Alliance represents 22 major, dynamic, business-like universities at the heart of the sector that deliver world-leading research with impact and are actively business focussed.  Alliance universities educate 26% of all UK students and achieve some of the highest graduate-level employment rates.  These universities offer a research-informed, academic learning environment and a culture of entrepreneurialism, equipping graduates for the 21st century.

Alliance universities

Aberystwyth University, Bournemouth University, University of Bradford, De Montfort University, University of Glamorgan, University of Gloucestershire, University of Hertfordshire, University of Huddersfield, University of Lincoln, Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Northumbria University, Nottingham Trent University, Open University, Oxford Brookes University, University of Plymouth, University of Portsmouth, University of Salford, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, University of Wales, Newport, University of the West of England.

For further information, please contact:

Communications Team, Oxford Brookes University on 01865 484454

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