Research output measures
While research is a core function of universities, there is no clear definition of research output, which makes it hard to measure. In addition, there have been several changes to the method used to allocate government funding for research in recent years.
For output measurement purposes, two experimental research output indexes have been calculated. The data used in these indexes has been sourced from the Department of Education.8
Research degree completions
The first index reflects the number of research degree completions per university. Research degrees are either research doctorate (PhD) or research-based masters degree qualifications. Doctoral degrees were treated as being equivalent to two research masters completions. These were aggregated across all universities using the research expenditure weights for each university in each year, a process which is described in more detail later in the paper.
Research output funded by government and industry
The second index represents university research output funded by government and industry. Since in many cases university research output cannot be observed and quantified, this measure is proxied by the amount of research income received by universities from both public and industry bodies in the form of grants. The assumption is that this income is typically tied to the production of knowledge in the form of reports and publications. Research grant income data was sourced from the Department of Education, and a ‘real’ measure of research income was obtained by deflating these values by the Consumer Price Index. These were also aggregated across all universities using the research expenditure weights for each university in each year, as described later in the paper.
Ideally, a metric of the tangible research output of universities, such as counts of research publications, would be used to supplement this index. However, publication counts suffer from a lack of quality adjustment. It might be possible to incorporate a quality perspective by weighting each publication by the number of citations, but this would be very resource-intensive.