Arts and humanities ‘shouldn’t be embarrassed’ about links with industry

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has announced the four universities that will lead its new creative economy consortia.

August 16, 2011

The Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy, announced in the AHRC’s delivery plan last December, will see universities collaborating with local businesses and cultural organisations such as libraries and museums to “build partnerships and entrepreneurial capacity” in the creative economy and increase the number of arts and humanities researchers engaged in knowledge exchange.

The £16 million, four-year project will replace all of the AHRC’s existing knowledge transfer activity.

Each consortium will be led by a university. The four successful applicants are Queen Mary, University of London, the University of the West of England and the universities of Lancaster and Dundee

Rick Rylance, AHRC chief executive, said the UK’s research and its creative economy were two of its greatest strengths: “These hubs offer the opportunity to unite these sectors to the benefit of both sides and the country as a whole.”

Details of what each hub will do are yet to be announced.

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, denied that the government had had any role in devising the programme, insisting he would “go to my grave with the Haldane Principle etched on my heart”.

“But, as with the physical sciences, if there is an announcement of particular significance I am more than happy to give it a very clear signal of support from ministers,” he added.

He pointed to a number of recent reports that suggested, contrary to perceptions, arts and humanities departments were slightly more likely than other departments to have connections with their local community.

“It strengthens the case for the arts and humanities and is an argument we can make,” he said.

He added that it was especially important to recognise that arts and humanities research was important in its own right.

But he said researchers “shouldn’t be embarrassed” about their contribution to the creative economy.

“It is perfectly possible for a self-confident, vigorous arts and humanities sector to welcome the fact it has a good impact on local communities and the creative economy without that implying there is only a utilitarian case [for funding it],” he said.

He had been “genuinely perplexed” by the common perception that the arts and humanities had been singled out for harsh treatment by the government.

He pointed out that the AHRC had received a similar budget settlement to the other research councils and said the reduction in the teaching grant for arts and humanities subjects had been lower than for most other subjects.

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