Selected universities will be allocated a quota of postgraduate studentships in a radical move by the Economic and Social Research Council, writes Anna Fazackerley.
Most of the ESRC's awards for a one-year masters course followed by a three-year PhD will now go to a list of chosen universities instead of being open to competition.
According to the new list, seen by The THES , studentships will be split between 45 universities.
Oxford University's department of economics will get 14 studentships for 2004-05. The economics department at the London School of Economics will have nine, and Birmingham University's political science and international studies department eight.
The council insisted that a high quota was not necessarily a mark of a higher-quality department. Between 40 and 50 awards will be available for universities excluded from the list to apply for in the usual way.
Andrew Walsh, a coordinator of postgraduate funding at Manchester University, which has been given a quota for nine of its departments, said:
"We are better able to map students on to our particular strengths. We know what will be the exciting developmental areas, and we can try to direct a high-quality student towards those."