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Discipline groupings

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

The QET idea for disciplinary groups, at least for this enhancement theme (other than that I have added numbers instead of the original bullet points) appeared in the call for bids and also on a web site page (visited 22 Feb 2007), as: "subjects have been grouped into 9 broad areas of generally cognate subjects as follows

  1. Health and Social care including: nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, podiatric medicine and surgery, radiography, social work and related areas.
  2. Life sciences including: Anatomy, Aquatic Bioscience, Biochemistry, Biomedical Sciences, Biotechnology, Genetics, Immunology, Microbiology, Molecular & Cellular Biology, Neuroscience, Parasitology, Pharmacology, Physiology, Sports Science, Zoology and related areas.
  3. Physical sciences including: chemistry, physics, earth sciences, astronomy and related areas.
  4. Creative and cultural practice including: music, drama, drawing and painting, animation, film & TV, graphic design, photography, design and applied arts, sculpture, fine art and related areas.
  5. Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary medicine
  6. Information and Mathematical sciences including: computing science, mathematics, statistics and related areas.
  7. Business and Management including: accountancy and finance, business and business management
  8. Arts and Social Sciences including: accountancy and finance, business and business management, education, social work and community education, languages, history, geography, philosophy, politics, law, psychology and related areas.
  9. Engineering and the Built Environment including: mechanical, electrical and electronic, chemical, and aeronautical engineering, architecture, landscape, planning, construction, surveying and related areas."

Superficially amusing aspects of this list include:

Disciplinary allocations

HESA 2004 HE students in study
QET Group % money % UK students % GU students Steering group
Health 1 11.1% 13.1% 7.8% 1
Medic 5 11.1% 3.3% 13.1% 1
Bio 2 11.1% 3.6% 7.0% 4
Sci 3 11.1% 3.4% 5.5% 0
Creative 4 11.1% 6.5% 3.4% 2
Math 6 11.1% 7.1% 7.0% 0
Business 7 11.1% 13.1% 5.6% 2
ArtSocSci 8 11.1% 30.5% 36.3% 3
(Education   - - 8.8% 4% 2)
Engineering 9 11.1% 8.2% 8.3% 1
Law   - 0% 3.8% 5.6% 0
Other   0% 7.4% 0.4% 0
Arts 50% 60% 51% 6
Science 50% 40% 49% 8
Pure 40% 65% 54% 5
Applied 60% 35% 46% 9

UK figures

I've used HESA figures for 2004 which I take to be an accurate picture of the HE sector as a whole. I've then assigned each of the 19 HESA subject headings to one of the above QET groups. I've shown Law separately; and also "other", which contains "combined" studies and Mass Communications. I had to move psychology from Biology (where HESA has it making up nearly half the numbers) to group 8. Each of the QET groupings was equally funded under this QE theme. I also (very roughly) assigned each subject heading both to either arts/science, and to pure/applied i.e. non/vocational. These assignments are highly debatable in detail, but I suspect that revisiting them more carefully will not change the overall picture by much. I also classified the steering group members by discipline/grouping.

You can see a spreadsheet outlining my workings here. The original HESA data is at:, which also has a link to the definitions used. I downloaded the spreadsheet from that page and used just column B "total HE students" and only the subtotals for each of the 19 principal (JACS) subjects. The students here are those XX??

(See also:   HESA home   HESA online data   JACS coding of subjects   definitions   )

University of Glasgow figures

N.B. in my university, QET subject grouping 8 includes subjects from 5 of the 9 faculties.

I've used as an estimate numbers from my university of students graduating in 2006 for each subject (using HEFCE's 41 subjects, then combining them as in the above list).

The HEFCE data is at The data for my university is at " files2006/tqi0168.xls". Within that spreadsheet file, the worksheet "Table3_19" gives continuation (dropout) data for that institution against each of the 19 HESA/JACS categories, or an expanded set of 41 subject groupings (Table3_41). There is a column "gained intended award or higher" that gives the graduations in that year and subject.


Even after ignoring the 11% of students (in Law and "Other") not assigned to any QET grouping, there is an order of magnitude (more exactly, greater than a 9:1) difference in how well covered a student is by this theme, depending on the subject they study.

The contrast between pure and applied subjects is a significant underlying issue. Three of the nine groupings (numbers 3,6,8) attracted no acceptable bids at all in the first round and had to be re-advertised: these groups are clearly pure, i.e. non-vocational, subject areas. The steering committee, no doubt similarly representing where the academic volunteers are, is only about one third non-vocational, and only 40% of the money has been directed towards such "pure" subject areas. (The steering committee has no-one from physical sciences, maths, or an Arts (humanities as opposed to social science) discipline.) Two thirds of UK students however are, broadly speaking, studying non-vocational subjects. Thus 60% of the money is directed at only one third of the students, and these are probably already the best provided for in terms of employability and graduate skills. The most vocational subjects have not needed any QE theme to grasp that enhancing employability and graduate attributes is important to their teaching. Academic staff in non-vocational subjects still are not generally interested in this. The allocation of effort in this QE theme seems likely to widen, not reduce, this gap.

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