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The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is one of the seven Research Councils in the United Kingdom. It receives most of its funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and provides funding and support for research and training work in social and economic issues, such as postgraduate degrees.


The ESRC is based at Polaris House in Swindon, which is also the location of the head offices of several other UK Research Councils and RCUK.

The mission of the ESRC

The ESRC's mission, according to its website, is to:

  • promote and support, by any means, high-quality basic, strategic and applied research and related postgraduate training in the social sciences;
  • advance knowledge and provide trained social scientists who meet the needs of users and beneficiaries, thereby contributing to the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and the quality of life;
  • provide advice on, and disseminate, knowledge; and promote public understanding of the social sciences.

Brief history

The ESRC was founded in 1965 as the Social Science Research Council (SSRC - not to be confused with the Social Science Research Council in the United States). The establishment of a statefunding body for the social sciences in the United Kingdom, had been under discussion since the Second World War; however, it was not until the 1964 election of Prime Minister Harold Wilson that the political climate for the creation of the SSRC became sufficiently favourable.

The first chief executive of the SSRC was Michael Young (later Baron Young of Dartington). Subsequent holders of the post have included Michael Posner, later Secretary General of the European Science Foundation. The current Chief Executive of the ESRC is Professor Paul Boyle, appointed from 1 August 2010.

Change of name

Following the election of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1979 general election, the Government expressed reservations about the value of research in the social sciences, and the extent to which it should be publicly funded. In 1981, the Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph asked Lord Rothschild to lead a review into the future of the SSRC.

It was ultimately decided (due in no small part to the efforts of Michael Posner, chief executive of the SSRC at the time) that the Council should remain, but that its remit should be expanded beyond the social sciences, to include more 'empirical' research and research of 'more public concern'. To reflect this, in 1983 the SSRC was renamed the Economic and Social Research Council.

Governance and management

The ESRC is managed by the ESRC Council, which consists of the Chair (Allan Gillespie), Chief Executive (Professor Paul Boyle) and representatives from academia, government and industry. The Council approves the ESRC's policies, strategy, budgets and major funding.


The ESRC is also guided by five committees and two cross-cutting networks:

  • Training and Skills Committee - oversees policy for training and skills development, including awards (or studentships) for postgraduate students
  • Research Committee - responsible for overseeing setting policy for ESRC's research funding and investments
  • Methods and Infrastructure Committee - responsible for overseeing setting policy for data services, surveys, research methods and information environment
  • Audit Committee - responsible for ensuring the overall effectiveness of systems of internal control across ESRC
  • Evaluation Committee - responsible for advising Council on the successful achievement of its corporate strategy through a combination of evaluation of policy, and research centres, programmes and projects
  • International network - connects the work of council and the committees with regard to ESRC's international agenda
  • Impact network - connects the work of council and the committees with regard to measuring and promoting the societal impacts of ESRC's work
We are the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. We support independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. Our total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time we support over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

Engineering Council

The Engineering Council (formerly Engineering Council UK; colloquially known as EngC) is the UK's regulatory authority for registration of Chartered and Incorporated engineers and engineering technician, holding a register of these and providing advice to students, engineers, employers and academic institutions on the standards for registration and procedures for registration. It is also responsible for the accreditation of educational and training programs, delegating this responsibility to licensed member institutions.

Professional engineering institutions in the UK began in 1818 with the formation of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The IMechE was formed next in 1847. The IEE was formed in 1871. These three are known as the Big Three institutions since together they represent 80% of registered UK engineers.

The Joint Council of Engineering Institutions was formed in 1964, which later became the Council of Engineering Institutions (CEI) in November 1965, which had a royal charter. This provided all the main functions that the EngC now provides, but was more ineffectual. Around this time, 33% of the UK's GDP was in manufacturing, lowering to 29% in the early 1970s.

A royal commission, from the committee of inquiry into the engineering profession, chaired by Sir Monty Finniston, was set up in 1977. It looked at the formation and registration of engineers, producing the Finniston Report - Engineering our Future in 1980. Engineering institutions thought they may have lost their autonomy. There was also the possibility of statutory licensing (direct government control) of engineers, as other professional practitioners such as doctors, but the work of engineers is more confined to work with other engineering companies, providing a nominal level of inherent professional self-regulation against misconduct. Keith Joseph at the DTI chose not to have a statutory body, but have a royal charter.

It formed the WISE Campaign in 1983 to encourage women to become engineers. In 1996, the diamond logo was replaced by a circle.

Engineering Council is recognized by the British Government as the national representative body of the engineering profession in the United Kingdom, working in partnership with other engineering institutions. The Engineering Council regulates the professions of chartered engineer, incorporated engineer and engineering technician in the UK. These professional titles are recognized in Europe with the Directive 2005/36.

The Engineering Technician (EngTech) may obtain the Licentiateship (with post nominals LCGI), a City and Guilds award comparable to a level 4 qualification. The Incorporated Engineer (IEng) may obtain the Graduateship (GCGI) in engineering, comparable to a level 6 qualification. The Chartered Engineer (CEng) may obtain the Membership (MCGI) in engineering, comparable to a level 7 qualification.

National Security Council (United Kingdom)

The National Security Council (NSC) of the United Kingdom is a Cabinet Committee tasked with overseeing all issues related to national security, intelligence coordination, and defence strategy. The terms of reference of the National Security Council are to consider matters relating to national security, foreign policy, defence, cyber security, resilience, energy and resource security.

The National Security Council was established on 12 May 2010 by Prime Minister David Cameron. The NSC formalised national security decision making, which had previously been carried out in informal groups largely composed of officials. It increased the power of the Prime Minister, who chairs the Council, and brought senior Cabinet ministers into national security policy making, giving them access to the highest levels of intelligence. It reflects the central coordination of national security issues seen in the Committee of Imperial Defence, which operated from 1902 until 1947, while also being partly modelled on the United States National Security Council.

The Council is a Cabinet committee; it coordinates responses to threats faced by the United Kingdom and integrates at the highest level the work of relevant government entities with respect to national security. The UK's National Security Adviser (NSA) is secretary to the council. The NSA role is currently held by Sir Mark Sedwill, who commenced work as the UK's fourth NSA in April 2017. In October 2018, Sedwill became Cabinet Secretary and it was subsequently reported that he would be expected to combine the NSA role with his new responsibilities as Cabinet Secretary (United Kingdom) and Head of the Home Civil Service. However, as of July 2019, he retains dual appointments.

From 1 April 2015 the council oversaw the newly created Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, a fund of more than 1 billion per year for tackling conflict and instability abroad. Following a critical inquiry into the fund by the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy in 2016, where the committee stated that the fund was secretive and "There is a risk that the CSSF is being used as a "slush fund" [for projects that do not] meet the needs of UK national security", fund spending at the country level was disclosed and an annual report produced.

Other government ministers, senior officials, military and intelligence officers attend as necessary, some on a regular basis. The Chief of the Defence Staff represents the Chiefs of Staff Committee at the NSC, not individual Chiefs of each service. There are three subcommittees of the NSC, Nuclear Deterrence and Security, Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingencies, and Strategic Defence and Security Review Implementation. The Leader of the Opposition has attended on an occasional basis.

Politics of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is a unitary state with devolution that is governed within the framework of a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of state while the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, currently Boris Johnson, is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the British government, on behalf of and by the consent of the monarch, and the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales and the Northern Ireland Executive. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The highest court is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

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