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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Strategically important and vulnerable subjects (SIVS) advisory group

The SIVS advisory group was set up in January 2005 to identify strategically important and vulnerable subjects and the principles on which to base intervention.

The group reconvened in 2012 to review the data and information relating to the sustainability of subjects, and to provide advice and recommendations to the HEFCE Board regarding the identification, monitoring and support for SIVS.

Peter Saraga OBE - former HEFCE Board member and formerly Managing Director, Philips Research Labs UK - chairs the group. 

Members of the group

Members of the strategically important subjects advisory group
Peter Saraga (Chair)  
John Craven Formerly University of Portsmouth
David Docherty National Centre for Universities and Business
Julia Goodfellow University of Kent
Alison Halstead University of Aston
Andy Leonard BP
Chris Linton Loughborough University
Ian Lyne Arts and Humanities Research Council (for RCUK)
David Llewellyn Harper Adams University
Matthew Harrison BuroHappold Engineering
Ric Parker Rolls Royce
Karen Price e-skills UK
Colin Riordan Cardiff University
Sonja Stockton Baxter Neumann
Nigel Vincent University of Manchester and the British Academy
Shearer West University of Sheffield
Sharon Witherspoon Formerly Nuffield Foundation
Chris Millward HEFCE
Peter Seddon/Linda Allebon HEFCE

Terms of reference for the group

Download the SIVS advisory group TOR as PDF (137 KB) | 

Advisory group minutes

Minutes of the meetings of the SIVS Advisory Group are available for download below.

Advisory group's 2010-11 report

The advisory group produced its second report for 2010-11. This report:

  • notes key developments since the group's first report in 2009
  • sets out the evidence on the current and future supply of graduates and postgraduates in SIVS subjects
  • analyses the predicted future demand for all SIVS qualifications.

Advisory group's 2009 report

In response to a request in Lord Sainsbury's Review of Science and Innovation, 'The Race to the Top', the advisory group produced its first report on the supply of, and demand for, STEM graduates.

The report found continued growth in vulnerable science subjects to levels beyond those in 2005 when the Government became concerned about their vulnerability. The group found that forecasts about future demand for STEM graduates should only be used to inform policy on the supply of HE in the broadest terms.

Report of the 2008 advisory group

The 2008 advisory group reported that principles of the overall programme are still sound. Adapting the 2005 advice to today's environment, the group advise that:

  • the dynamism of the HE sector is a great strength that should be paramount in any policy
  • the availability of teaching programmes in vulnerable disciplines is more important than the existence of a named department
  • a strong supply of skilled labour, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is vitally important.

The report of the advisory group (HEFCE 2008/38) is available.

A brief guide outlining our support for and approach towards SIVS is available.

Sustaining science and other key vulnerable subjects in higher education

Download the Sustaining science and other key vulnerable subjects in higher education as PDF (710 KB)

Evidence Ltd conducted an interim evaluation of the programme to inform the advisory group's report, and the work of the programme going forward.

2005 advisory group

The group was chaired originally by the late Professor Sir Gareth Roberts. It first reported in June 2005.

The group advised, in this initial report, that the dynamism of the English higher education sector is a great strength, and interventions to support subjects should, as a rule, be kept to a minimum. However, the group suggested that there are certain subjects that are both strategically important and vulnerable. Vulnerability may be measured by either a mismatch between supply and demand, or by a concentration of the subject in institutions which may be particularly vulnerable to change.

The report of the advisory group (HEFCE 2005/24) is available.

Following consideration of the report, a letter providing the Board's response to the Secretary of State was issued in June 2005.

Page last updated 2 October 2015