High stakes

March 10, 2011

Times Higher Education's fine piece about the recent Cambridge conference The Arts and Humanities: Endangered Species? is inevitably selective about what was an extremely rich, diverse and wide-ranging set of discussions ("Reforms may turn scholars into academic 'lap dancers'?", 3 March). These included how far "arts and humanities" as nomenclature now designates and has become synonymous with "education" itself, with any defence of the one dependent on fighting for the other.

Whether we can protect the "democratic freedom of the humanities" is about a set of educational values - humanist, critically informed, egalitarian and inclusive - in relation to which the future of women's education and the new universities particularly are at risk. What is ultimately at stake, however, unless the sector can unite around a political strategy to prevent disastrous access policies and social division, is the integrity of the UK's post-school education in its entirety.

Julia Swindells, Professor of English, Anglia Ruskin University

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