Top arts face cash crisis

April 4, 1997

THE COUNCIL of University Deans of Arts and Humanities is right to be fearful for the future of arts research funding (THES, March 21).

Not only is the Humanities Research Board unable to pay overheads on the grants it makes, but the outcomes of the Higher Education Funding Council for England's research funding methodology are also posing a threat to the highest quality arts research. HEFCE's algorithm is obviously designed to ensure that the best departments are protected; but in practice there are many 5-star activities losing out heavily, particularly in the arts, which are a national strength.

The basic problem lies in the shortage of funds. However ingeniously HEFCE tries to make ends meet, the funding of arts research bears less and less relation to the real costs of time, travel and library and information technology support involved. An Arts and Humanities Research Council could well be part of the solution, but only if new money is on the table.

Meanwhile, there is an urgent need to alleviate the financial pain inflicted on certain units of assessment caught by both the banding mechanism and a high average score. HEFCE has already indicated that it will introduce a policy factor next year. Protection of the UK's international profile in arts research must surely be one of its highest priorities.

Barry Ife, vice principal Linda Newson, dean of the school of humanities, King's College, London

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