Dearing to boost arts research

February 28, 1997

Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry into higher education is likely to recommend the creation of a humanities and arts research council when it reports later this year.

The Dearing research working group is thought to be "in favour" of such a move since it would give research in the arts and humanities similar status to that enjoyed by other disciplines.

But there are conflicting views among arts leaders and art school heads over who should be involved in such a council.

The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals has submitted a paper outlining the case for the new council to the Dearing inquiry.

The Arts Council has also said in its Dearing submission that it "would be very interested in exploring partnerships with the Higher Education Funding Council for England, particularly with a view of setting up a research council for the practical, performing and literary arts".

But this proposal has drawn fire from some quarters.

Katharine Crouan, head of Winchester School of Art, said: "I feel strongly that such a research council should not be put in the hands of an existing body, but its members should be drawn from education and the professions."

During 1996/97 HEFCE made Pounds 90 million available for research in the arts and humanities.

In addition the British Academy's humanities research board received Pounds 16 million in 1995/96 of which Pounds 14 million was directed to postgraduate scholarships, leaving just Pounds 2 million for all other forms of advanced humanities research.

The CVCP says that the new research council should take responsibility for postgraduate training.

This would mean that the British Academy "should withdraw from any direct involvement, with appropriate arrangements made to protect its financial position".

Freed from the "rather ambiguous position" which it now occupies as a result of its oversight of the HRB, the academy would be in a stronger position to represent the needs of its community to government, says the CVCP.

Christopher Frayling, rector of the Royal College of Art and chairman of an Arts Council arts research working group, says the concept of a research council is an "excellent one".

But he worries it will be biased towards the funding of "interpreters" of art and design to the exclusion of performers.

"There's a great opportunity here, if only the right balance can be found between reflection on practice and reflection in practice," he said.

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