Elite, against the odds (3 of 3)

November 11, 2010

If a review chaired by a distinguished literary publisher and president of the British Academy had recommended that government funding for undergraduate teaching be entirely concentrated on the humanities and social sciences, one could imagine the accusations of conflict of interest that would have arisen from the science community.

Yet when the former chairman of a major oil company and president of the Royal Society of Engineering proposes the withdrawal of funding from the humanities and social sciences, we are asked to accept it as an impartial recommendation.

Here is an alternative to Lord Browne's proposal. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are important, but much of their value lies in their economic benefits. We may therefore safely leave their funding to business, either by way of voluntary contributions or, if necessary, a tax on profits.

The humanities and social sciences, by contrast, bring comparatively few economic benefits, but the creativity and thought that they foster immeasurably enrich our society. They therefore have the nature of a public good and, as such, should be funded by us all through the Treasury.

Andrew Connell, Cardiff.

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