Save this page

SFC review of subject weightings

Subject weights are intended to reflect the varying costs of carrying out research in different disciplines and inform the distribution of the available funds for research among Scottish higher education institutions.

Both SFC’s Research Excellence Grant (REG) and Research Postgraduate Grant (RPG) use subject weights as one of the main parameters in their allocation formula.


SFC’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee (RKEC) is conducting a focused review of the current weights – originally introduced in academic year 1997-98 – to determine whether they still accurately reflect the relative costs for a sub-set of disciplines.  

Aims of the review

The review will be undertaken by a working group of the RKEC, including two external members, tasked with the following aims:


  • To review the relative costs of undertaking research associated with six Units of Assessment (UoAs), taking into account changing practices in research in these areas.
  • To make recommendations to RKEC on any proposed adjustments to subject weights, to be implemented in funding allocations no earlier than AY 2022-23.

Scope of the review

The review will adopt a holistic, high level focus on the following Units of Assessment:

  • UoA 2: Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care.
  • UoA 3: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy.
  • UoA 4: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience.
  • UoA 10: Mathematical Sciences.
  • UoA 17: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology.
  • UoA: 35: Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts. 


Evidence will be collated by the following methods:

  • Further examination of standard sector data currently available to SFC’s Statistics Team, such as HESA figures and information relating to the Research Assessment Exercise and the Research Excellence Framework.
  • Inviting disciplinary stakeholders to submit evidence on changes in research practice within the target UoAs.

Additional evidence, such as examining reference disciplines may also be sought by the Working Group.


  • January 2019: Introductory meeting of the Working Group, and agreement of review principles and methodology.
  • April 2019: Review a first tranche of evidence, focusing on UoAs 2, 3 and 4.
  • June 2019: Review a second tranche of evidence, focusing on UoAs 10, 17 and 35; and agree recommendations to the RKEC.
  • September 2019: RKEC to consider the Working Group’s recommendations.

Anticipated outcomes

The Working Group will make recommendations to RKEC on whether changes to the subject weightings should be considered.

If accepted, RKEC will take account of these recommendations as part of a broader review of the Research Excellence Grant, following the ongoing Research Excellence Framework.

RKEC will then report to the SFC Board with its assessment and recommendations.


If you have any questions or enquiries about this review, please email: