Humanities reprieve

February 27, 1998

CONTROVERSIAL moves to rationalise funding between arts and science subjects will be dropped in 1998-99 to make money available for humanities research.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England had started to phase in changes over three years in the amount of research money it allocates to different subjects.

Under the changes, which began last year, institutions received less funding for humanities subjects and more for science subjects and art and design.

The final two phases of the plan, however, will no longer go ahead. Instead, HEFCE will put the money that would have been diverted from humanities towards an Pounds 8 million boost for arts and humanities research in each of the next two years.

This extra cash, found after the government accepted the need for better humanities research in line with the Dearing report's recommendation for an arts and humanities research council, also includes Pounds 1.5 million new money.

The funding council's board was discussing interim measures for administering this sum as The THES went to press. It was expected to back the idea of a board with academics from all subjects and representatives from cultural bodies, such as libraries and galleries. The board is likely to be directed jointly by the funding council, the Humanities Research Board and any other funders.

One problem will be arrangements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where no extra money has been put aside, even though other research councils are expected to continue operating across the UK after devolution.

Michael Worton, chairman of the Council of Deans of Arts and Humanities, said this could hinder institutional collaboration. He said that funding arts and humanities research from money planned for art and design would be acceptable because of other benefits. "The gains in cultural and research terms are greater than a bit of money here and there," he said.

John Laver, chairman of the HRB and a member of Dearing's research panel, said the Pounds 16 million put aside for the next two years is far short of the Pounds 25 million suggested by Dearing.

He insisted that the board should be only an interim measure: "I would make it a point of principle that arts and humanities should have parity with sciences. In the longer term there must be a fully funded research council."

The government will make its final decision on an arts and humanities research council after the results of the comprehensive spending review later this year.

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