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Strategically important and vulnerable subjects (SIVS)

We look to support some key subjects where the scale of teaching and research is at risk. Where the future of the subject is at risk and the subject is ‘strategically important’ we may need to intervene.

All this work relies on a mixture of on-going research, evidence and monitoring.

Aims

Our work in this area aims to identify risks and intervene to address them.  New fee and funding arrangements for higher education (HE) came into effect from autumn 2012. In this environment, the choices of students, institutions or employers may create risks for some subjects.

So our work aims to protect against this kind of risk to the future availability of subjects. But it recognises that the new funding arrangements aim to create more dynamism and the potential for self-correction. This means we will only address risks very selectively. 

The changes from 2012 also mean that our general approach to subjects at risk has changed. Until now, we have held a single list of ‘strategically important and vulnerable’ subjects. We no longer do this. Instead we focus on risks to the future availability of any subject.

We consulted on our new approach to SIVS through evidence from key organisations and through our Teaching Funding consultation.  Our approach was approved by the HEFCE Board in July 2012

Activity

We have already sought – or planned – to address specific risks to subjects. We will continue to support: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), modern foreign languages, and quantitative social science. All of these subjects we supported through our previous work in this area.

Our support so far includes:

  • Additional funds for the teaching of high-cost STEM subjects, including an additional allocation for the highest cost STEM subjects. We recognise that certain subjects are more expensive to fund and this supplement will increase the overall level of funding for STEM teaching from 2012-13. 
  • We have also protected places in chemistry, engineering, maths, physics and modern foreign languages in the way we allocate student places to universities and colleges. We have also required institutions to sustain teaching and study in these subjects at these levels.
  • Further funding for demand-raising activity in modern foreign languages, currently provided by the Routes into Languages programme.
  • A tuition fee supplement for students engaging in a year of study or work abroad through the ERASMUS exchange programme, or study abroad through another route, from 2014-15. This supplement will compensate institutions for costs involved in participating in exchange programmes.
  • Continued support for the quantitative methods programme, which seeks to enhance demand for, and provision of, quantitative studies across the social sciences.
  • Additional funding for postgraduate taught and postgraduate research programmes

We will maintain on our web-site an up-to-date list of interventions that we are making to address subject risks. 

Monitoring and progress

We base decisions to support subjects at risk on evidence, which we gather and develop regularly. This evidence, in part, comes from annual monitoring of:

  • Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency
  • Data from the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey
  • UCAS application rates
  • A-level subjects studied
  • GCSE subjects studied

In addition to quantitative data, we also gather information from institutions, other sector partners and those with a stake in the HE sector.

Using these sources of information we will, in the coming years, analyse and monitor the impact of the new funding and fee changes. Where necessary, we will make collaborative interventions to address risks to a particular subject.

We will publish an annual report which draws together the available information on the future availability of subjects.

Our SIVS Advisory Group oversees our work in this area.

Background evidence

During 2011 and 2012, we consulted on our new approach to SIVS by consultation with, and inviting evidence from, a range of key organisations.

Download the B6 as PDF (237 KB)  | Download the B6 as MS Word (104 KB)

Evidence and advice received from five organisations is set out in the documents below.

Letter from the British Academy on SIVS

Download the Letter from the British Academy on SIVS as PDF (261 KB)

Letter from Research Councils UK on SIVS

Download the Letter from Research Councils UK on SIVS as PDF (750 KB)

Letter from the Royal Society on SIVS

Download the Letter from the Royal Society on SIVS as PDF (451 KB)

Letter from the Royal Academy of Engineering on SIVS

 Download the Letter from the Royal Academy of Engineering on SIVS as PDF (535 KB)

Letter from the Government Office for Science on SIVS

Download the Letter from the Government Office for Science on SIVS as PDF (1,794 KB)

Sector impact assessment

In developing our approach to strategically important and vulnerable subjects, we have undertaken a formal assessment of their impact on the HE sector in terms of regulatory burden, equality and diversity, and sustainable development.

Download the assessment of strategically important and vulnerable subjects

Download the SIVS policy impact assessment as PDF (124 KB) | Download the SIVS policy impact assessment as MS Word (100 KB)

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