RAE scales tipped to unbalance humanities 1

March 19, 2009

There were 83 submissions to the history unit of assessment in the 2008 research assessment exercise, and the panel found some evidence of international quality in every one.

We are deeply disappointed that history, like most disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, has suffered a drastic cut in its overall research funding. There has been a cut of almost £4 million in cash terms, a reduction of 13.8 per cent on 2008-09 figures. This is within an overall research budget that has risen by 4 per cent, and this reduced sum has to support significantly more historians. Some departments that have engaged in consistently excellent research and that have markedly improved since 2001 risk cuts of a fifth or a third of their core Higher Education Funding Council for England research funding.

It is difficult to agree with David Eastwood, chief executive of Hefce, that "this is not a raid on humanities or the social sciences" ("Flexible and purposeful", 5 March). History departments will face a period of profound uncertainty and possible staff losses, with consequent problems for research and, through deteriorating staff-to-student ratios, teaching quality.

The support of high-quality research in history is vital to the economic, cultural and social wellbeing of Britain, and we would urge a more balanced distribution of funding in future.

Jackie Eales and Ann Hughes, Canterbury Christ Church University and Keele University, Joint conveners, History UK (HE).

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