Correlation limitations

April 18, 2013

The fact that at the institutional level, total quality-related (QR) cash from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and total research council funding are highly correlated is neither new nor surprising. It also misses the point. (“Alternative to REF delivers similar results on QR funding”, News, 11 April.)

Our analysis of research assessment exercise results, cited by the Centre for Business Research report covered by the article, shows that, notwithstanding the high correlation, the differences between QR-based and research council-based allocations can be very large.

More importantly, research quality varies substantially between departments within institutions. The research excellence framework, like the RAE before it, recognises this by judging research quality at the subject rather than the institutional level.

The aggregation of QR and research council income at the institutional level also exaggerates the correlation between the two. At the subject level it is typically weak.

Peter Diggle and Amanda Chetwynd
Lancaster University


You report a strong correlation between the amounts institutions earn from QR and research council funding.

This suggests that the costly and labour-intensive research councils could be scrapped and their funding allocated based on each institution’s QR income. The government would save a large amount of money by doing so. David Willetts, please take note.

Ben Atkinson

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry

But the highest value UK spin-off companies mainly come from research-intensive universities, latest figures show