Cambridge plans arts centre

November 3, 2000

Cambridge University is mounting an ambitious challenge to Oxford University's superiority in the arts and humanities.

As the traditionally arts-dominated Oxford begins to challenge Cambridge's dominance in science, Cambridge plans a major international arts and humanities research centre.

Its general board has published plans for a 2001 launch of a centre for research in the arts, humanities and social sciences. The centre will provide infrastructure to support existing work and to attract international collaborations.

When he mooted the idea last year, vice-chancellor Alec Broers admitted that Cambridge's focus on science had meant that its work in the arts had been "dispersed around the faculties, often with inadequate support and accommodation". He said the university's "achievements in the 20th century had been thought of largely in terms of sciences and technology", but he added that a balance between the arts and sciences was "a prerequisite for success in the century ahead".

The report into the planned centre says: "In CambridgeI the arts, humanities and social sciences lack an institution comparable in scope, scale and standing to the major centres in Europe, North America and Australia."

The Cambridge centre will provide resources and facilities "to attract and accommodate world-class research". It will house about ten visiting research fellows.

Its first aim will be to bolster existing activities with basic administrative support, such as advice on funding and organising conferences and workshops. "These services are badly needed by many individuals, colleges and small research groups and faculties and departments with less administrative support and information about and access to external funding than is available to large scientific departments," the report says.

The centre's director will be Ian Donaldson, chairman of the faculty board of English. He will be joined by a deputy and at least four other full-time staff.

The centre is dependent on significant fund-raising. The university's Newton Trust has promised £1 million over five years, subject to outside matching funds, and St John's College will donate £500,000 over five years. The general board will meet the costs of setting up the centre and running it for five years, "but intensive efforts are being made to obtain further funding to enable the centre to continue beyond this period and to compete effectively".

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