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Executive summary


1. This document asks higher education institutions (HEIs) to update information on their research activity.

Key points

2. The Research Activity Survey (RAS) collects data annually on postgraduate student numbers and research income from charities to inform our allocations of two elements of quality-related research (QR) funding: the research degree programme (RDP) supervision fund and the charities support fund. The data collected in the 2010 survey will inform the distribution of these two elements of funding for the 2011-12 academic year.

3. In order to reduce the number of bespoke data returns we require from institutions, we are taking steps towards using data on postgraduate research student numbers and research income from charities from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) records to inform the RDP supervision fund and the charity support fund in the future.

4. Subject to further work, we intend to switch to using HESA data to inform these elements of QR funding for the 2012-13 allocations onwards. This will mean that the RDP supervision fund for 2012-13 would be informed by eligible postgraduate research student numbers extracted from the 2010-11 HESA student record, and that the charity support fund for 2012-13 would be informed by the eligible research income from charities extracted from the 2009-10 HESA finance statistics return (FSR). This would also mean that the RAS would not be published for 2011 onwards, although this remains conditional on our confidence that the HESA data are sufficiently robust to inform funding.

5. The '2009-10 statistics derived from HESA data: guide to HEFCE web facility' will include a new table showing an indicative allocation of RDP supervision funding based on postgraduate research student numbers extracted from the 2009-10 HESA student data that your institution will be submitting to HESA. We hope this will enable institutions to determine whether their systems and processes for returning postgraduate research student data to HESA are fit for purpose and, if not, correct any areas of weakness before the data are used to inform funding. During that exercise, institutions may also wish to comment on the suitability of our algorithms for extracting research student numbers to meet the funding eligibility criteria.

6. We have asked HESA to modify the FSR so that we can extract data on research income from charities that fit our eligibility criteria for funding as closely as possible. We have also made two changes to the RAS definitions of eligible income in order to align our criteria with general HESA guidance. These are described in paragraphs 11 and 12.

7. All HEIs that made submissions to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE2008) should complete the 2010 RAS. Where an institution wishes to make a nil return it should inform us by letter or e-mail.

8. The data reported to this survey must be provided according to the RAE2008 definitions of units of assessment.

9. This document provides:

  1. Guidance notes for completing the 2010 Research Activity Survey.
  2. Definitions used in the 2010 RAS survey (Annexes A and B).
  3. Examples of the survey tables (Annex C).
  4. Details of how to obtain workbook templates and upload data (Annex D).

10. We will make workbooks available to nominated data contacts at institutions in November 2010.

Summary of changes since the 2009 RAS

11. Previously, in any one year, only the first £500,000 of the annual release from the deferred capital grant account of each capital grant was eligible to be returned to the RAS. For the 2010 RAS, we are removing this cap.

12. Previously, any portion of a research studentship grant that was marked as being for consumables or bench fees was ineligible to be returned to the RAS. For the 2010 RAS, such income will be eligible. Any portion of a research studentship grant that is to be retained by the student for maintenance or living costs will continue to be ineligible.

13. Some postgraduate research students are registered on research degrees where the final qualification will be jointly awarded by more than one institution. If all partner institutions are HEFCE-funded institutions then the guidance in Annex A paragraph 14 continues to apply. However, if one or more of the partner institutions are not HEFCE-funded institutions, then the reporting institution should modify the student's FTE appropriately to capture only the portion of the student’s activity that is conducted in the English institution.

Action required

14. Survey data must be uploaded to the HEFCE extranet by noon on Tuesday 14 December 2010.

15. Survey data must be signed off as correct by the vice-chancellor or principal of the institution by Thursday 13 January 2011.

Date: 1 September 2010

Ref: 2010/28

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Heads of higher education institutions in Northern Ireland receiving recurrent funds for research

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Research funding, Finance, Data collection

Enquiries should be directed to:

Vasanthi Waller, tel 0117 931 7369, e-mail