You're better than that

December 20, 2012

I was interested to read about Astrid Wissenburg's move to The Open University ("Now she'll work by her own rules", Research, 29 November). However, I was intrigued by her description of the institution as "a very solid, mid-range research organisation" in Economic and Social Research Council terms, with funding levels on a par with the likes of the universities of Liverpool, St Andrews and Surrey.

Data recently published by Times Higher Education suggest otherwise ("Secret of the success rates: reducing demand", News, 15 November). They show that the university received £806,000 from the ESRC in 2011-12, compared with Liverpool's £77,500, St Andrews' £405,000 and Surrey's £391,000. The four institutions appear very different "in ESRC terms". This is confirmed by the data for the previous two years: in 2010-11, for example, The Open University received £558,000 from the ESRC, Liverpool £157,000, St Andrews £691,000 and Surrey, nothing.

Given that the average in ESRC income for the three comparators of £241,000 over the past three years compares unfavourably with The Open University's £630,000, I would suggest that Wissenburg may be doing her institution a disservice.

Phil Ward, Research funding manager, University of Kent

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