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Bristol awarded share of £19.5 m for quantitative social science training

Press release issued: 3 October 2013

Bristol is one of fifteen UK universities selected to receive a share of £19.5 million in an ambitious project to address the critical shortage of social scientists with the quantitative skills needed to evaluate evidence and analyse complex data.

Bristol is one of fifteen UK universities selected to receive a share of £19.5 million in an ambitious project to address the critical shortage of social scientists with the quantitative skills needed to evaluate evidence and analyse complex data.

The ‘Q-Step’ programme, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), will comprise a network of ‘Q-Step Centres’ that will deliver new undergraduate programmes specialising in quantitative social science over five-years from October 2013.  The programme is a strategic response to the shortage of quantitatively trained social scientists in the UK, the evidence for which was summarised in the British Academy position statement Society Counts.

Although targeted at undergraduates, the Q-Step programme aims to promote quantitative skills training across the course of the education system, from recruitment of school students to specialist training for those going on to postgraduate work. Expertise and resources will be shared across the higher education sector through an accompanying support programme, which will also forge links with schools and employers. The centres will also produce new content for existing courses, experiment with new ways of teaching, as well as work placements and pathways to postgraduate study.

Bristol’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has been awarded £1,307,000 to host one of the centres led by Dr Richard Harris in the School of Geographical Sciences.

Professor Wendy Larner, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, said: “We are delighted to have been selected for the Q-step award. The funding will be used to equip our students with the advanced quantitative methods skills that will not only provide them with the means to evaluate and analyse complex data once they graduate but also increase their employability as the next generation of quantitatively trained social scientists.”

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:“Evaluating and analysing data is an essential part of science education and we need more people with these important skills. Q-Step will deliver an exciting programme, increasing the number of skilled graduates in quantitative social science. By sharing expertise and resources across the education sector, this programme is a step in the right direction to give students the skills they need and help employers build long lasting relationships with universities.”

Sharon Witherspoon, Director of the Nuffield Foundation said: “The number and high standard of applications for Q-Step funding demonstrates a shared recognition that the weakness of quantitative skills training in much social science matters – and shows there is a shared commitment to do something about it. With a network of fifteen universities across the UK, as well as an emphasis on building links with schools and employers, we now hope to build the critical mass necessary to promote a real step-change in skills over the long term.”

Further information

The universities receiving Q-Step awards are: University of Bristol, Cardiff University, City University, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Glasgow, University of Kent, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Manchester, University of Oxford, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Sheffield, University of St Andrews, University College London and the University of Warwick.


The awards have been made following an open competition, launched in October 2012. Due to the number and high standard of applications, an additional £4 million has been secured to fund more centres than originally planned, taking the total amount awarded from the £15.5 million originally budgeted to a new total of £19.5 million over five years. Q-Step Centres will begin planning and rolling out their programme of activities in October 2013, with an immediate focus on recruiting the 53 new posts.

Summary of planned Q step actitivities at the University of Bristol

• New BSc/MSci degree programmes with QM in: Politics and International Relations, Sociology, Policy Studies, Childhood Studies and Human Geography

• New second-year QM units based around lab work and applied data analysis

• Additional work placements

• Increased capacity to support quantitative dissertation work amongst students in the five disciplines

• Inter-disciplinary seminar series

• Fourth year shares teaching with postgraduate Advanced Quantitative Methods pathway to doctoral research

• Bursaries for fourth year MSci

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