Nearly £20 million in funding to improve quantitative skills in social sciences is to be split between 15 mostly Russell Group universities, it has been announced.
The Q-Step programme aims to bring about a “step change” in social science undergraduates’ quantitative methods training.
When the five-year scheme was launched last October, Sir Ian Diamond, vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the British Academy High Level Strategy Group on Quantitative Skills, wrote in Times Higher Education that the sidelining of quantitative skills teaching and the scarcity of academics qualified to provide it meant that the UK’s social science graduates typically lacked the data analysis expertise sought by employers.
The number – 48 – and quality of applications for the programme has prompted funders to pledge an extra £4 million since the launch, taking total investment up to £19.5 million.
The Nuffield Foundation, which instigated the project, will provide £7.5 million, the Economic and Social Research Council £7 million and the Higher Education Funding Council for England £5 million.
The 15 universities selected to take part will form a network of Q-Step Centres, charged with developing new courses in quantitative social science, producing new content for existing undergraduate courses, experimenting with new ways of teaching and creating work placements.
The funding, which is expected to create 53 new full-time posts, will be distributed among various social science departments at the selected universities. The 15 institutions are: University College London, Queen’s University Belfast, City University London, Manchester Metropolitan University and the universities of Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Kent, Manchester, Oxford, St Andrews, Sheffield and Warwick.
Amounts allocated depend on the nature of planned activities and the number of disciplines covered; they range from nearly £1,547,000 (Queen’s University Belfast) to just under £813,000 (St Andrews).
The centres will be expected to share the expertise and resources they develop across the sector through an accompanying support programme, which will also forge links with schools and employers.
Chris Millward, associate director of Hefce, said the programme would “yield a new generation of social science graduates who are fit for the future”, adding that the centres would work closely with university outreach activities “to stimulate early interest in quantitative skills”.
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