Exploring the value of QR in supporting researcher-scale activities

Quality Related (QR) funding from Research England provides an important source of support for research in English universities. This report identifies and explores the ways in which QR Funding is used, its benefits, and how it complements other types of research income.


Research at universities in the UK is funded through a system of dual support: response-mode grants fund specific projects; and a block grant (Quality-related Research (QR) funding) is awarded to institutions to spend at their own discretion. How QR funding contributes to research has rarely been studied, and consequently, this project explored some of the ways that QR supports the research of individual researchers and used the University of Cambridge as a pilot case.

We used qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate a number of aspects of academic life that could be linked to QR including sabbaticals; publications which lack external funding acknowledgements or links to grants; seed grant schemes; and salary support which bridges researchers between fixed-term contracts. All methods – used and attempted – are described and accompanied by a set of reflections for further evaluations of QR’s impact at other institutions.

We found that QR makes many contributions to the research environment across all disciplines supporting the conception and incubation of new ideas. Furthermore, QR can support the entire research endeavour in more theory-based disciplines such as the arts, humanities, mathematics, computer science, as well as pockets of other fields where project costs are lower.


  • About the author

    Dr Steven Wooding, Affiliated Researcher

    Dr Steven Wooding is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Research Strategy Office at the University of Cambridge, a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Science Policy and a Senior Research Associated at the Intellectual Forum at Jesus College. His central research interest is ...   Learn more

  • About the author

    Becky Ioppolo

    Becky Ioppolo is a former Affiliated Researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. She is interested in understanding the characteristics of high performing research environments, particularly in universities. She worked on the QR Project which aims to understand the value of UK universities’ discretionary funds (block grants) for research purposes and how these discretionary funds complement targeted grant funding.