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Over a five-year period, up to 15 specialist centres will receive funding to provide quantitative skills training in social science disciplines. The aim is to produce a cohort of quantitatively-skilled social science graduates, as well as to embed long-term institutional change to provide more and better quantitative methods training in UK universities.
The programme is a strategic response to the critical shortage of quantitatively trained social scientists in the UK, which has led to employers across all sectors unable to recruit people with the skills to apply quantitative methods to evaluating evidence and analysing data. A summary of the evidence of this shortage is presented in a position statement published by the British Academy today (Society Counts), which is welcomed by the funders of this new programme.
Undergraduate departments or groups of departments within higher education institutions are invited to apply for funding of up to £350,000 a year for up to five years to develop and deliver a wide range of training activities to embed quantitative skills training and a deep understanding of research design.
In addition to funding for their individual programme of activities, successful institutions will form a network of specialist centres, which will benefit from a supporting programme designed to facilitate the exchange of ideas and expertise and encourage joint activities. In time, many of the materials and lessons from these centres will be disseminated throughout the higher education sector, to encourage other institutions to address this issue.
Institutions are encouraged to be innovative and experimental in their proposed programmes of activities. Examples could include the development of new courses with significant focus on quantitative methods; the development of vacation training activities and work placements, and bursaries for students to attend them; and developing links between undergraduate and postgraduate provision for quantitative methods training.
Sharon Witherspoon, Director of the Nuffield Foundation said:
‘We are delighted to launch this important partnership between a leading philanthropic funder, the lead funding body for social science research and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
‘This partnership arises from our shared judgement that we need a dramatic improvement in the quantitative skills in UK social science. Our aim is to stimulate change at an institutional level as well as to produce a cohort of appropriately skilled students.’
Professor Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of the ESRC said:
‘The ESRC is delighted to be working in collaboration with the Nuffield Foundation and HEFCE to fund a network of undergraduate centres specialising in quantitative methods. Previous positive work has been undertaken to build capacity in quantitative methods, but the skills deficit is an enduring problem and a substantial programme of work is required to lead to a major step-change in capacity in quantitative methods.’
Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE said:
‘We are very pleased to work with the Nuffield Foundation and ESRC on this new initiative, which typifies our collaborative approach to supporting strategically important and vulnerable subjects. We have been gathering advice and evidence on risks to subjects since the Government asked us to consider this in its higher education White Paper. This initiative represents an early response to this evidence and it builds on the extra support we have announced during the last year for the highest cost STEM subjects, for demand-raising in modern languages and the year abroad, and for postgraduate taught programmes.’
Applications must come from an undergraduate department or group of departments within a single UK higher education institution. Departments covering a range of social science disciplines are eligible, with the exception of economics and experimental psychology, where there is not the same degree of skills shortage.
The programme will be launched at the British Academy on Friday 19 October, and there will be a second event at the University of Manchester on 8 November.
Applications will close in February 2013, and assessment will be by peer review and interview panels. Successful centres will be announced in May 2013.
A background document and guide for applicants are available to download from the Nuffield Foundation website.
Contact: Frances Bright, Communications Manager, Nuffield Foundation on 020 7681 9586 or firstname.lastname@example.org.