AHRC’s misguided gamble

January 9, 2014

Louis Goddard is right to condemn the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s doctoral training partnership scheme (“AHRC’s flawed doctoral dating game has left big names on the shelf”, Opinion, 19/26 December), and the intellectual corruption and degradation at its heart are as depressing as its implementation.

I attended meetings aimed at deciding on the interdisciplinary research themes that we were told had to replace a list of subjects involved. We were told that the AHRC had emphasised that there was to be no “business as usual”. Thus we were asked to devise forms of words that could subsume research in various disciplines, and we spent the day deliberating with the academic rigour of an advertising agency. Sadly, my suggestion “STEM Roots and Fruits” was not adopted.

However, when various universities began to advertise scholarships in the autumn, mention of themes and of co-supervision was largely absent, and it seemed that they were trying as hard as possible to pretend to themselves and to the world that the new scheme was just a novel way of distributing studentships.

This did not surprise me because when I asked at a meeting how the joint theme-based supervision would work and whether or not students would be subject to a single set of regulations and awarded a degree by a single university, I was told that nobody knew. In short, the AHRC has imposed a new model of postgraduate funding without proper consideration of how it would work in practice and seemingly without any reason other than the need to follow the trend set by the other research councils.

James Ladyman
Head of the department of philosophy
University of Bristol

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