Change to the PGR counting method for QR RDP supervision funding

Change to the PGR counting method for QR RDP supervision funding

Research England is changing its method of counting postgraduate research students (PGR) to inform QR research degree programme (RDP) supervision funding. This is a technical change in how we count PGR students that are used within the funding method.

The method of counting research students that will inform QR RDP supervision funding for 2020-21 onwards will be modified by removing the FTE limit and year limit per student. The revised method will capture the student FTE within the latest available HESA Student Record without imposing limits on the individual student’s total FTE or the number of years of study they have undertaken.

This change has been made for several reasons:

  1. It will address the issue raised by the QR and formula capital funding Equality Impact Assessment that research students with certain protected characteristics may need longer to complete their study. Survey respondents and workshop participants highlighted the risk of potential unintended effects on the representation of protected characteristics within the PGR student population.
  2. It will simplify audit processes by removing the reliance on the accuracy of historic data which is burdensome for institutions to record and retain.
  3. It will also reduce complexity in the processing of data (making it easier for institutions to follow our method for counting research students for funding).

Our funding method will remain the same. When determining RDP supervision fund allocations, we calculate a quality score for each department. This consists of the amount of 3* and 4* activity as a proportion of total activity at 2* quality and above, in its REF overall quality profile. For each eligible department, PGR student FTEs are subject to London weighting (using the same percentages as for mainstream QR), subject cost weightings and the quality score. We then distribute the total available funding in proportion to these weighted FTEs.


  1. Our current policy is that any single research student should count 3.0 FTE at most towards the calculation of QR RDP supervision funding. To achieve this, the current method counts students in years 1 to 3 of full-time study or years 1 to 6 of part-time study, and includes a transitional measure (adopted from 2017-18 funding onwards) that requires us to link student data through six years to ensure that each research student that counts towards funding is within our 3.0 FTE limit.