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The 1994 Group, a consortium of 19 smaller UK research-led universities, has called for a concentration of state funding for PhD education at research-intensive universities. In a paper analysing postgraduate provision, the 1994 Group had found that the research-intensive universities of the 1994 Group and the Russell Group (20 larger research universities, among them Oxbridge) have “the greatest productivity of PhDs, in terms of completion rates and the relationship between completions and number of academic staff.” The report was issued at a critical point in time, when the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is conducting a review of postgraduate education in the UK, which is expected to have implications for future funding.
Unsurprisingly, the 1994 Group initiative did not only meet with agreement. Libby Aston, Director of the University Alliance, a grouping of younger institutions, pointed out that its members “award twice as many PhDs per funding council research allocation as either the 1994 group or the Russell Group”. The Alliance also believes that the paper is wrong in analysing "productivity" solely on a university-by-university basis. Wendy Purcell, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth, went further in her criticism, when she spoke of a “very skewed data set”.