Q-Step selection process

Selection Board

The Centres were selected by a Selection Board appointed by the Nuffield Foundation, ESRC and HEFCE. The Board was chaired by Professor David Rhind, Chair of the Nuffield Foundation. Other members were:

  • Professor Terrie Moffitt, Chair in Social Behaviour and Development, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London (and Nuffield Foundation Trustee)
  • Jil Matheson, National Statistician, Office of National Statistics
  • Professor Gordon Marshall, Director of the Leverhulme Trust
  • Professor Ella Ritchie - Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Newcastle University, HEFCE TQSE member
  • Professor David Martin, Professor of Geography at Southampton University, Member of ESRC Council

The Board was serviced by a Secretariat comprising:

  • Sharon Witherspoon, Director, Nuffield Foundation
  • Sarah Lock, Programme Head, Nuffield Foundation
  • Rachel Tyrrell, Deputy Team Head, Health & Human Behaviour, ESRC
  • John MacInnes, ESRC Strategic Advisor for Quantitative Methods Training
  • Linda Allebon, Higher Education Policy Adviser, HEFCE

Strict protocols ensured that in cases where there was any conflict of interest, Board members did not see any materials.

Peer Review Panel

We received 48 applications, each of which was sent for review by three members of an international Peer Review Panel. The Panel comprised 21 eminent social scientists working outside the UK, with expertise in undergraduate teaching of quantitative skills in a variety of disciplines, as well as in quantitative research.

The applications were reviewed according to the four criteria set out in the application documentation:

  1. additionality
  2. excellence and innovation
  3. institutional commitment
  4. longer-term, sustainable change

The Panel provided grades and comments on each application to inform the Selection Board’s decision-making.


On the basis of the reviewers’ grades, and with generous inclusion criteria to take account of anomalies between comments and numerical grades, the Secretariat submitted a shortlist of 25 applications to the Selection Board. A further seven applications with interesting features that the Board might like to consider were also submitted. The Board also received information about the non-shortlisted applications and were invited to request to see any that they wished.

Additional considerations

In addition to the four criteria, the Selection Board considered the credibility and viability of the proposals within the current UK higher education context, since international reviewers would not always be aware of these issues. When they completed their ranking, they considered more strategic issues. For instance, they considered variety in the types of centre funded, differentiating between those that were spread across many disciplines and those that focussed on a small number; and the need to fund a variety of models that sought to improve basic skills for a larger range of students as well as those that built specialist pathways for a smaller number of students with advanced skills. They had an eye too on geographical spread. In the end, they judged their ranking met these aims, and no adjustment was made to the agreed selection.

Further £4 million

The programme was initially launched with a budget of £15.5 million. The Selection Board was determined to achieve critical mass, both in terms of the number of centres and the range of activities and disciplines covered. In this way a strong signal would be sent to the sector about making a change in social science teaching. However, in the course of the selection, it became clear that further funding would be needed to achieve that aim.

ESRC and the Nuffield Foundation have agreed to each provide a further £2 million for the programme – bringing the total amount being spent to over £19 million. This allowed the Selection Board to agree funding for a robust network of 15 centres. A programme for support and dissemination will engage a range of other universities, many of whom submitted excellent applications, as well as the wider range of UK universities who might benefit from materials produced by, and lessons learned from, the funded centres.