ARTS and humanities deans are piloting a pre-election campaign for a Humanities Research Council.
The Council of University Deans of Arts and Humanities is stepping up calls for a separate research council in the face of funding cuts to certain subjects, most notably languages.
The deans' council is particularly keen to secure a commitment from the Labour party prior to the general election.
Michael Worton, dean of arts at University College London, has already written to the Higher Education Funding Council for England expressing fears about the running down of arts and humanities research funding.
Professor Worton told HEFCE chief executive Brian Fender that there was "considerable anxiety" over the formula used to make the 1997/98 allocations.
He said that the quality rating used to decide research funding would lead to a 7 per cent cut in French funding and a 6 per cent cut in German, Dutch and Scandanavian languages.
Professor Worton has produced statistics that show that for this academic year Humanities Research Board funding for advanced research, from the British Academy's grant-in-aid and from funding council grants, totalled Pounds 3,298,000. "That total yields Pounds 414 for each research-active member of staff in the humanities," according to Professor Worton.
He argues that this compares with Pounds 5,333 for each research-active social science colleague.
Professor Worton said: "I think what we do is important and a research council would help us take the fight to our masters. One would hope that a council would have political clout."
He said that there was a danger that humanities and arts research would lose out because of the notion that it contributes less to economic activity and wealth generation than, for instance, engineering and science.
John Laver, chairman of the Humanities Research Board, said that the British Academy, which set up the board in 1994 after the Government refused a research council, had called consistently for more funding for it.
A spokesman for the Labour party said that it was committed to the arts and humanities but was waiting for Sir Ron Dearing's recommendations regarding a humanities research council. The party pledged to set up an HRC in its 1992 election manifesto.
A spokesman for HEFCE said: "We shall be holding discussions in June with the British Academy about grants to the humanities in relation to research."