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Further developed proposal for quality-based resource allocation

On 31 May, Formas, Forte, the Swedish Research Council and Vinnova presented a further development of the joint proposal for a model for quality-based resource allocation that they presented in 2021. The proposal is the result of a joint Government mandate to further develop those parts of the model that relate to how applications and assessments of profile areas shall be designed and implemented.

The proposal relates to a new model for quality-based resource allocation that will replace the current indicator-based model as the tool for allocating increased funding within the ‘direct government appropriation’ to higher education institutions (HEIs) for research and education at third cycle level. The model is based on the Government’s wording in the research policy bill presented in December 2020 and the mandates given to the research funding bodies by the Government. The model means that an international panel will make an assessment of the quality of strategic profile areas that the HEIs themselves define. The profile areas are intended to strengthen the HEIs’ research profiles and contribute to increased quality in the research.

In the further development of the proposal, the public agencies have worked to further define areas such as grounds for assessment and grading criteria. The work has been done in ongoing dialogue between research funding bodies and the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF).

“We are grateful to have had a good a constructive dialogue with SUHF. As this relates to the direct government appropriation, SUHF’s viewpoints have carried much weight during the design of the model. It is crucial that the HEIs find the model acceptable in order for the implementation and the quality improvement it aims to create to be realised,” says Sven Stafström, Director General of the Swedish Research Council.

The starting point for the work of further developing the proposed model the public agencies presented in 2021 has been to safeguard the transparency and predictability of the quality assessment. This is important for a quality-assured process, and makes it easier for both those who carry out the assessment and the HEIs being assessed. At the same time, the grounds for assessment must be sufficiently clear so that the entire flora of potential profile areas the HEIs choose to highlight can be included.

The further developed proposal in brief

The 27 HEIs impacted on by the model submit one application per HEI, where they describe and substantiate the quality and the planned development of one or several profile areas that they themselves define. Both established profile areas and profile areas under construction can be included.

Based on the documentation included in the applications, the profile areas are then assessed by a broadly composed international panel with subject experts, based on three components: Scientific quality, preconditions for quality, and quality in collaboration with the surrounding society.

For each of the three components, there are main questions and guiding questions to support the subject experts, as well as instructions regarding the documentation the HEIs have to provide to describe their profile areas.

The panel grades the applications and writes statements, which form the basis for the Government’s decision to allocate increased funding. The panel does not rank the HEIs or the profile areas.

“We think there are good indications that he model will lead to a fairer assessment of different research areas. We have also placed great emphasis on renewal and development in the criteria for assessment. This is an important signal to the HEIs to take a long-term and strategic view when they design their profiles,” says Sven Stafström.

If increased funding is to be allocated according to the proposed model by 2025, it should be launched this autumn.

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