AHRC needs new focus and funding to boost creative-industry research

Million+ highlights increasing economic value of sector to the UK. Rebecca Attwood reports

July 3, 2008

The Arts and Humanities Research Council should be reformed - and renamed - with a new focus on the creative industries, according to a report.

Research commissioned by the post-1992 university think-tank Million+ says that universities have added significant value to the creative economy and calls for more funding for teaching, knowledge transfer and research in the area.

The report, by Napier University's Centre for Creative and Cultural Industries, proposes the creation of an Arts, Humanities, and Creative Industries Research Council with representatives from the creative industries, including entrepreneurs, "a much wider spectrum" of representatives from the UK's universities and an increased budget.

It also says that the Government and universities should challenge popular negative stereotypes about the academic rigour of courses in the creative industries - which include art and design, fashion, television and radio, computer games technology, publishing, advertising and music - and develop an international strategy to promote their excellence.

Les Ebdon, chair of Million+ and vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said: "Government has raised the strategic importance of science and engineering and a similar strategy would boost the UK's position as world leader in the creative economy and promote the graduate qualifications, research and knowledge-transfer activities in universities that have been a cornerstone of this success.

"A new AHCIRC would send a powerful message that this strategy is centre stage."

The AHRC currently has the smallest percentage of funding from the science budget of any of the seven research councils, receiving 2.8 per cent (£96,792,000) of the total in 2007-08.

"The lower priority given to the AHRC in science funding is called into question by the emergence of creative industries which now require access to research infrastructure and investment in workshops, studios and specialist equipment," according to the report, Creative Futures: Building the Creative Economy through Universities.

It recommends that the Higher Education Funding Council for England should review the levels of funding for teaching-practice-based courses in the creative industries, and a doubling of the number of AHRC awards for professional masters courses.

The requirement for creative industry SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to contribute 40 per cent of the costs in AHRC Knowledge Transfer Catalyst projects should be reduced, and the AHRC should do more to raise industry awareness of its knowledge-transfer schemes.

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com.

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