Judge people, not project

August 4, 1995

I am one of the 1,222 unsuccessful applicants in this year's Economic and Social Research Council research studentship competition, but fortunately I have a job.

My complaint is about the way the competition is run. The emphasis is on the suitability of proposed research and much less on the potential of the applicant.

This means that an intellectually weaker person who has come up with a proposal deemed interesting according to current fashion will triumph over a much stronger candidate with a "less favourable" proposal. This seems a rather subjective basis on which to make such an important decision. I got a very good first but would have been better off if I had concentrated on my application and coasted a low II(i).

Surely it would be a little more objective if degree result was given a greater weighting by the ESRC. Alternatively, an even better idea would be to establish x amount of projects to which studentships could be attached, much like the ones advertised on an ad hoc basis in this journal. That way the right person for the project could be selected, and the mad dash to meet the May 1 deadline while revising for exams could be avoided.

PAUL B. J. WAKELING 73 Wellington Avenue Wavertree Liverpool

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