AHRC funding for film and television studies, 2003 to 2008

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) was established in 2005, when it replaced the Arts and Humanities Research Board. The AHRC is publicly funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and is the major funding body with responsibility for research in Film and Television Studies in higher education institutions (HEIs) the United Kingdom. While the AHRC makes available statistics for awards and submissions by its core themes and HEIs, it does not provide a subject-by-subject breakdown. Nor does it provide data at the level of the twelve government office regions of the UK, or by university consortium, or by gender. This survey presents an analysis of funding for postgraduates and academics in Film and Television Studies in these terms using publicly available data taken from the AHRC website [1].

Postgraduate funding

Awards to postgraduates in Film and Television Studies from 2003 to 2008 were made in three categories:

  • Doctoral competition: support for postgraduates studying towards a doctoral degree. This category includes collaborative doctoral awards.
  • Research Preparation Masters Scheme (RPMS): support for postgraduates in advanced study and training prior to going on to study for a doctoral degree. This category includes awards previously made under Competition A.
  • Professional Preparation Masters Scheme (PPMS): support for postgraduates in developing high-level skills and competencies in a relevant area. This category includes awards previously made under Competition P.

The AHRC has changed the way it allocates postgraduate funding from 2009. Block Grant Partnership (BGP) studentships are now awarded at an institutional level, with responsibility for allocating support at the departmental level now in the hands of universities that hold the funding. HEIs that do not hold BGP funding are eligible to enter postgraduate students into a studentship competition that functions in a similar fashion to the previous open competition.

The number of awards made in each category from 2003 to 2008 is presented in Figure 1. In total, 194 awards were made of which 91 were for the doctoral competition, 93 were for the Research Preparation Masters Scheme, and 10 were for the Professional Preparation Masters Scheme. There is an overall decline in the number of postgraduates funded by the AHRC after 2006, with a greater drop-off in the number students receiving funding for Masters level qualifications.


Figure 1 AHRC postgraduate awards in film and television studies by funding category, 2003 to 2008

Higher Education Institutions

Postgraduate awards were made to a total of 36 institutions (including several colleges of the University of London) – a fraction of the 169 HEIs in the UK that were open in August 2008 and eligible to apply for funding during the time period covered. The number of postgraduate awards by funding category for each institution is given in Table 1. Two universities  – the University of East Anglia and the University of Warwick – have considerably more awards (31 in each case) than the other institutions, and are the only HEIs to achieve doctoral awards in double figures (13 and 10, respectively). Only four other institutions achieve double figures in total (King’s College London and the Universities of Exeter, Glasgow, and Nottingham). There are eleven institutions with a single award only for the six year period covered by the data.

Table 1 AHRC postgraduate awards in film and television studies by institution and funding category, 2003-2008


Of these 36 institutions, 15 are part of the Russell Group of research intensive universities, 13 are members of the 1994 Group, 5 are members of the University Alliance, 1 is a member of Million+, and 2 are not aligned with any consortium. The 28 universities of the Russell and 1994 Groups of research intensive universities account for 92.27 per cent of the total number awards. Postgraduate awards by university consortium are presented in Figure 2.


Figure 2 Percentage of AHRC postgraduate awards in film and television studies by university consortium, 2003 to 2008


The regional distribution of AHRC postgraduate funding is concentrated in the South East of England and the West Midlands, although this is largely due to the extraordinary impact a single institution can have on the regional figures. For example, the West Midlands accounts for 32 out of a total of 194 awards (16.5%) – but of these, 31 are accounted for by the University of Warwick, with a single award to the University of Birmingham. Similarly, of the 39 awards made to HEIs in the East (20.1%), 31 were to the University of East Anglia, 6 to the University of Cambridge, and 2 to the University of Essex. The North West and Yorkshire and the Humber have a greater number of HEIs (five in each case) but receive fewer awards – 4.1% and 6.2%, respectively. The North East received no awards, while the figures for Northern Ireland (1.0%) and Wales (0.5%) are negligible and represent awards to a single HEI in each case. A regional breakdown of the distribution of postgraduate funding is presented in Figure 3.


Figure 3 Percentage of AHRC postgraduate awards in film and television studies by government region, 2003 to 2008


The male-female split in awards for all categories of postgraduate funding are given in Table 2. In each year the percentage of awards to male postgraduates has exceeded those to female postgraduates, and overall awards to male postgraduates account for approximately 62% in all categories from 2003 to 2008. However, there is a clearly identifiable drop in the proportion of awards to female postgraduates from around 40% between 2003 and 2006 to less than 30% in 2007 and 2008.

Table 2 AHRC postgraduate awards in film and television studies by gender, 2003-2008


There are also gender disparities at an institutional level. At the University of Warwick male students outnumbered female students in each year, and in 2005 and 2006 the male-female ratio was 8-1 and 6-0 respectively. Of the 31 awards to the university, a total of 23 were to male postgraduates and just 8 to female students.  At the University of East Anglia, 17 of the 31 awards were made to female students, who outnumbered their male counterparts in 2005, 2006, and 2007. The University of Glasgow has a male-female ratio of 4:7, and that of King’s College London is 7:3. The ratio for the University of Exeter is 7:6, but this university clearly represents the trend for fewer female postgraduates in recent years illustrated in Table 3: for the period 2003 to 2006, the ratio was 1 male student to 5 females, but for 2007 to 2008 it is 6 male students to 1 female.

Research funding

From 2003 to 2008, a total of £3,932,677 was allocated by the AHRC for research in film and television across a range of programmes, including:

  • Research leave: salary and related costs to enable academics to gain relief from teaching and administrative duties while researching.
  • Research grants (standard): funding for well-defined research projects with a full economic cost of between £20,000 and £1,000,000.
  • Small Grants in the Creative and Performing Arts: funding of up to £20,000 towards costs of research. This scheme is no longer active.
  • Other schemes: research fellowships, resource enhancements, etc.

The total amount of research funding in film and television studies has generally increased over the period 2003 to 2008 (see Figure 4). Researchers bidding for funding under the Research Grants (Standard) programme have achieved some significant success in for projects that cover wide-ranging topics such as early colour cinema, the films of Lindsay Anderson, and the social geography of cities on film. After a decline, the level of funding for Research Leave has returned to its 2003 level over the past couple of years. The Small Grants programme made a small, if important, contribution before closing in 2005; but apart from a single fellowship and one award for resource enhancement there has been no extra funding for these subjects.


Figure 4 Value of AHRC research funding in film and television studies by funding category, 2003 to 2008

Higher Education Institutions

Forty-three HEIs received some funding, though the level of that funding ranges from as little as £2,246 to as much as £418,827, with a median of £34,728 (Table 3). Most institutions (23) received only a single award over the period covered, while six were successful on four occasions. However, the scale of the award varies enormously: the University of Surrey was successful in winning £418,827 for a single research project in 6 years, while researchers at the University of Sussex received £34,889 across four awards.

Table 3 AHRC research funding in film and television studies by institution and funding category, 2003-2008


Although, the distribution of research funding is dominated by the Russell and 1994 Groups of research-orientated universities, accounting for 74.19% of the total, this figure is lower than that for postgraduate funding. With only one exception (Bournemouth University), all the funding allocated under the Research Grants (Standard) scheme was allocated to Russell Group and 1994 Group universities, and this accounts for 69.30% of the total research funding for Film and Television Studies. The allocation of research funding by university consortium is presented in Figure 5.


Figure 5 Percentage of AHRC research funding in film and television studies by university consortium, 2003 to 2008


The regional distribution of funding for Film and Television Studies by the AHRC makes for stark reading. Five regions (North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, East, and Wales) received less than 2.5% of research funding each, and Northern Ireland received no funding. These six regions account for only 9.0% of the total funding allocated. Scotland has received a healthy proportion of research funding (13.1%), but this is to be accounted for research grants to only two HEIs (the universities of Glasgow and Stirling). The West Midlands received 8.1% of total funding, although most of this may be accounted for by single Research Grants (Standard) award to the University of Warwick. Similarly, the £377,188 awarded to the University of Liverpool accounts for most of the North West’s allocation (10.9%). Universities in the South East and South West have been very successful in attracting funding for Research Grants (Standard) and this accounts for their leading positions in the country – of a total of 11 eleven such grants, these regions accounted for 6 (3 apiece) and a total of £1,338,770. In fact both these regions eclipse London, which accounts for 14.0% across 13 HEIs. Figure 6 shows the regional distribution of research funding in the UK.


Figure 6 Percentage of AHRC research funding in film and television studies by region, 2003 to 2008


Overall, the number of research awards is slightly higher for male researchers than for female but the gender disparity evident in the postgraduate awards is not replicated (see Table 4). For Research Grants (Standard) the data refers only to the named applicant in the database, and so it does not reflect the total number of staff who may be employed on a specific research programme. However, this data does provide a means of identifying the gender of the senior researcher who has managerial control programme, and from this perspective there has been a significant bias to male researchers over the period covered here. The four projects with headed by female researchers were all awarded in 2007 and 2008, with no such funding allocated from 2003 to 2006. In 2007 and 2008, only one award was made to a programme headed by a male researcher under the Research Grants (Standard) programme.

Table 4 Number of AHRC awards in film and television studies by gender, 2003-2008


The patterns in Table 4 are repeated when looking at the value of the funding allocated by gender: male researchers have received more funding for Research Leave and Research Grants (Standard); while female researchers received a greater proportion of the now-defunct Small Research Grants (Table 5).

Table 5 Value of AHRC awards in film and television studies by gender, 2003-2008



From 2003 to 2008, the AHRC allocated substantial funds to researchers and postgraduates in Film and Television Studies, but there are some important questions that remain to be answered.

  • As university finances are increasingly stretched across programmes how can Film and Television Studies continue to attract and support postgraduate students?
  • Given the ‘pockets of research excellence’ identified throughout the UK by the 2008 RAE, how can research funding be more evenly spread across the sector to involve more HEIs from the University Alliance, Million+, and the remaining universities?
  • How can regional imbalances be mitigated so that researchers and students throughout the country can benefit? Are Northern Ireland, Wales, and the North East of England deserts of research in Film and Television Studies?
  • Given the limited distribution of research funding by type of university and region we must conclude that a large body of research in film and television studies (if not the major part) is carried out by academics who either receive funds from other sources (e.g. the British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, etc.) or have no funding at all.  Given this state of affairs, is the AHRC even relevant to the majority of film and television researchers in the UK?
  • Will the new system of Block Grant Partnerships only entrench these disparities, concentrating research funding into an ever more exclusive group of universities?
  • Why has there been such a large drop off in the number of awards to female postgraduates in 2007 and 2008? Is the subject failing to keep excellent female students beyond graduation; and if so, why? This is arguably the most pressing issue to be raised here.

These are questions that the AHRC must address, but perhaps most importantly, they are issues that must be debated by film and media scholars in the UK as a whole. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a forum in which such issues may be presented. A limitation of this survey is the short time span (only six years) and only a single source of funding is covered, but it has been my intention to raise a range of issues that can be further explored with a view to developing research in Film and Television Studies in the post-RAE environment.


  1. http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/FundedResearch/Pages/default.aspx, accessed 5 March 2009.

About Nick Redfern

I am an independent academic with over 15 years experience teaching film in higher education in the UK. I have taught film analysis, film industries, film theories, film history, science fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, and Leeds Trinity University, where I was programme leader for film from 2016 to 2020. My research interests include computational film analysis, horror cinema, sound design, science fiction, film trailers, British cinema, and regional film cultures.

Posted on March 12, 2009, in Film Studies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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