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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.


A review of the subject weights used by SFC in its research funding formulas has recommended that, after the next REF, the weightings for four subject areas should increase. This reflects evidence of changed research practices in these areas since the 1990s. The recommended changes will not increase the research funding available, only the way in which these funds are shared out from 2022.

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.

The review

SFC’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee (RKEC) has recently (2019) conducted 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. Recommended changes are set out below. There will be no immediate impact on our distribution of research funds. 

A working group of the RKEC was asked: 

  • 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.

The working group members were:

  • Professor Lesley Yellowlees (Chair of RKEC and the Working Group).
  • Professor Susan Craw (Robert Gordon University & Member of RKEC).
  • Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli (University of Glasgow & Member of RKEC)
  • Professor Andrew Porter (University of Aberdeen & Member of RKEC).
  • Dr Helen Reddy (University of St. Andrews).
  • Professor Eleanor Riley (The Roslin Institute).

Evidence considered

The review considered the following six Units of Assessment, with evidence from:

  • 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.
  • Disciplinary stakeholders on changes in research practice within the target UoAs.

You can find stakeholder submissions in response to our invitation below:


The RKEC received the Working Group’s report on 4 September 2019 and is recommending:

  • UoA 2: Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care:- The weighting should remain at 1.2.
  • UoA 3: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy:- The weighting should remain at 1.2.
  • UoA 4: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience:- The weighting should be increased to 1.6.
  • UoA 10: Mathematical Sciences:- The weighting should be increased to 1.6.
  • UoA 17: Geography and Environmental Studies only:- The weighting should remain at 1.2.
  • UoA 17: Archaeology only:- The weighting should be increased to 1.6.
  • UoA 35: Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts:- The weighting should be increased to 1.2.

These recommended adjustments to the subject weights will be considered for funding allocations from AY 2022-23. There will be no immediate impact on HEIs’ research funding.


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