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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 00:16 GMT 01:16 UK
Backing for more arts research money
Report is a boost for the "Cinderella" disciplines
Prime ministerial advisers say the UK's arts and humanities should have a full research council, equivalent to those for engineering or the biological or environmental sciences.

The recommendation comes from the PM's top science and technology advisory group, which argues for a reduction in the "archaic divisions" between the arts and sciences.

In a report - Imagination and Understanding - the Council for Science and Technology says the arts and humanities "are an outstanding part of UK research. They also contribute in multiple ways to the nation's prosperity and well being."

In response, the Higher Education Minister, Margaret Hodge, said: "The arts and sciences do have much to learn from one another, and it must be right to enable education and research that bridges the gap."

The Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, said the report would be taken into account during the 2002 government spending review.

Universities are delighted. The president of Universities UK, Roderick Floud, said the report strengthened the case for arts and humanities disciplines to get funding they were currently denied.

Universities UK sees five advantages to having research council status:

  1. a "seat at the table" when research policy is being determined. Too often at present there is no consideration of the contribution arts and humanities research can make - and their interests are not considered
  2. a statutory right to advise and to be consulted on research matters
  3. easier collaboration in joint research council discussions and initiatives
  4. equal status alongside other subject areas - no longer "outsiders"
  5. access to additional funds, such as those for infrastructure improvements.

School studies

The council's recommendations also include broader programmes of undergraduate study and an even less specialised school curriculum - including perhaps additional elements of a Baccalaureate system.

Launching the report, council member Emma Rothschild said education was about understanding and imagination, as well as about training and skills.

She said: "Confidence in relation to both the arts and the sciences is an important objective of education in schools, universities and colleges, and in life-long learning.

"Some of the most exciting research is in subjects which cross the frontiers between the humanities and the sciences.

"The great challenges for the UK and the world - globalisation, inclusion, and the impact of science on society - are all ones in which the arts and humanities and science and technology need each other, and are needed in public discussion."

At present there are seven research councils:

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Medical Research Council
  • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council
  • Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils
An Arts and Humanities Research Board was set up for England and Northern Ireland in October 1998, as a result of a recommendation by the Dearing report on higher education. A year later it was extended to Scotland and Wales.

The board's chief executive, Professor David Eastwood, said: "We very much welcome this report and its recognition of the contribution that research in the arts and humanities makes to many aspects of the economic well-being and quality of life of the nation."

See also:

09 Jul 98 | Education
More money for arts study
14 Oct 00 | Education
Cambridge arts get hi-tech makeover
28 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Beautiful science inspires artists
28 Jun 01 | Health
A portrait of Alzheimer's
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