Saturday, 14 April 2018

In Search of the Royal Society Success Rates

Somewhere behind the Palladian grandeur success rates lurk. Possibly (image: Steve Slater, CC BY 2.0).
One of my roles at the University of Kent is secretary to the Research and Innovation Board, which decides on policy and strategy. I’m not a natural bureaucrat, but the paper shuffling, agenda setting and minute writing are compensated for somewhat by the ringside seat I get for the discussions that decide the institutional direction on research and innovation. 

At the most recent meeting, the board looked at success rates for different funders. In readiness for this we had gathered data on how the university compared with funder averages. For the research councils, this was fairly straightforward. Success rates are produced annually for each of the seven councils, via Times Higher. You can see last year’s figures here.

Success rates for the Leverhulme Trust take a little more digging, but the figures can be found in its annual reports. The Wellcome Trust gives more global figures but does provide a comprehensive analysis by gender and age profile, disciplinary distribution and award rate over time. And the British Academy offers all of its figures when its officers give presentations, such as on these slides given to King’s College London.

So it came as a surprise when I could find nothing on the Royal Society’s website about its success rates.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Questioning the Cartel

Hotel Russell: Post-1892 (image: Tony Hisgett CC BY 2.0)
Anyone whose children are applying to go to secondary school will have been handed glossy prospectuses, with staged photos and talk of inspiring teaching and excellent facilities. Ignore all that and head for the back, where there are data on the destination of the leavers, showing how many have gone on to tertiary education and, of those, how many went to Russell Group universities.

The term is casually used as a shorthand for excellence, a sort of kitemark. There is an unspoken understanding that, while all those going on to universities are to be celebrated, only those going to RG universities matter. And I think that’s dangerous for UK higher education as a whole.