Limiting our worldview

March 24, 2011

In his piece "The end is not nigh" (Opinion, 3 March), Sir Adam Roberts argues that we need to be more precise about the threats posed to the humanities and social sciences and less paranoid about them.

In the past month, we have witnessed people in North Africa and the Middle East rising up, rewriting the power balance within states and reshaping the region. In such circumstances, we need much more of the "consciousness" raised by studying the social sciences to understand what has been happening and to shape an appropriate UK government response.

Undergraduate work in politics, economics, sociology or other social science disciplines does not guarantee a heightened and knowledgeable response to world events, but it helps.

That is why we fear the effects of the government's funding plans on social science recruitment. The post-2012 fees regime is likely to smother demand for degrees in, for example, social work or education. Higher fees also pose a risk to postgraduate recruitment, since those graduating in 2015 may not wish to defer repaying their loans by embarking on further study, nor to take on additional debt in the process.

Such an eventuality would further diminish us, given the importance of postgraduate training to so many of our social science-based professions, whether in the public, private or voluntary sector.

Cary Cooper, Chair of council, Academy of Social Sciences

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