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Strategic Framework

The School of Advanced Study supports national and international humanities researchers and scholars by creating opportunities for developing new research agendas and by providing unique specialist resources and services.

This role stems from the special mandate and funding given to the School by Research England (formerly the Higher Education Funding Council for England, HEFCE) for research promotion and facilitation across the UK and internationally. 

In  November 2018 following a review undertaken by Professor Greg Walker on behalf of Research England, the School secured a further tranche of special funding.  The panel’s recommendations are outlined below:


Paragraph 13 of the overall report states:

a. To continue to provide SAS with special funding at the current level on the understanding that this funding will be reviewed again in five years. SAS are encouraged to use the special funding efficiently and ambitiously to facilitate the research effort in the humanities and social sciences nationally.

b. Research England special funding should be used only for the facilitation of research nationally and not for original research production. SAS should be strongly encouraged to seek additional funding alongside the Research England special funding to grow and enhance their activities, thus reducing reliance on the special funding over time.

c. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) as currently configured does not provide an appropriate mechanism for assessing or funding SAS. There are numerous practical difficulties that would make submission of the various institutes or SAS as a whole to REF impractical and counter-productive. But the major barrier to using the REF to allocate funding is that the REF is not designed to measure SAS’s principle activity for which it receives Research England special funding: the facilitation of research in the UK and beyond.

d. The SAS Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) should be reinstated to provide oversight and direction for SAS and to enable Research England to monitor SAS’s use of special funding. This body, made up of senior figures recruited nationally, should receive annual reports from the SAS management group on the development and implementation of strategy, with a raft of relevant management information. Like the previous SAG, it would have sanctions at its disposal to withhold a portion of RE investment if it deems SAS to be failing in the scope or pace of its strategic development. The SAG should in turn provide information annually to Research England to allow monitoring of funding. Research England will provide SAS with clear direction on the types of information that should be provided to the SAG, though the SAG may also request additional information from SAS where necessary. The SAG should at a minimum expect to gather and relay information on SAS’s progress against its strategies, how cross-institute working is being implemented, evidence for SAS’ national reach, financial and EDI data, and the University of London’s relationship with SAS. Research England expect to have membership as an observer on the reinstated SAG. Research England should also continue to subject SAS to regular reviews.

a. SAS should be strongly encouraged to continue to enhance their role as a research facilitator with national reach by undertaking cross-institute, cross-disciplinary, collaborative work through the mechanisms they see as appropriate to this and by using the newly reinstated SAG to provide strategic oversight and accountability for such activity. The School should also engage more consistently and directly with the challenges of digitisation, developing a clear digital strategy for the collections and archives in their care.

b. SAS are expected to continue upon the path they have outlined in their submissions by demonstrating leadership, national reach, ambition and boldness in their efforts to facilitate research and in their strategic activities to make SAS greater than the sum of its parts.

In response the then Dean of the School, Professor Rick Rylance responded:

Thank you for the report. We are grateful to you, your colleagues and members of the panel for their work.

We are delighted that the Review recommends continuation of SAS’s Special Funding and recognises the School’s achievements. The recommendations for our work over the next period are constructive and in line with the direction on which SAS is embarked. They will be a major reference point as we develop our activities. We would welcome the appointment of a successor to the Strategic Advisory Group.

We are pleased that the Panel acknowledges the importance of the support of the University of London and the considerable effort that has gone into leveraging additional income for the School. All external funds raised by SAS are re-invested in the academic activities of the School and our strategy outlines plans to increase these. We note that some of the panel’s recommendations carry cost implications.

In December 2020 Professor Jo Fox was appointed Dean of the School and PVC Research and Public Engagement.  On her appointment Professor Fox said:

The Humanities and Social Sciences play a crucial, pivotal role in our understanding of what it means to be human – our history and our cultures.  The School of Advanced Study is in a prime position to lead and innovate in these critical fields of study, and it’s a great honour to be appointed to work with the amazing talent to be found here. The times we are in present unique challenges and we are ready to tackle them.