Not abolished, improved

January 14, 2010

Whatever the overall merits of your glum piece on the future of the humanities, "The core connection" (7 January), it is certainly wrong about one thing. It is untrue that the Arts and Humanities Research Council has "almost abolished" its support for individual scholarship through a leave scheme.

As most humanities researchers will know, the AHRC's old matched leave scheme has been phased out, but it has been replaced by a more flexible fellowship scheme that will continue to offer direct support to scholars, with a budgetary allocation in line with the previous provision. The advantages of the change - which has been widely praised - are:

- it is more flexible and can, for instance, more readily support early-career researchers

- it allows researchers to apply for greater levels of support

- it detaches the requirement that awards are "matched" by institutions, thus allowing them to be taken up when the work needs to be done, not when timetables of institutional leave allow.

To replace a good scheme with a better one may well be a "sign of the times", but it doesn't seem a particularly "worrying" one.

Rick Rylance, Chief executive, Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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