End Government Interference in Humanities Research
To David Willetts, MP:
On Sunday 27 March 2011, the Observer reported that the government has exerted political pressure on the AHRC to have it include the government’s “Big Society” initiative in its Delivery Plan, 2011-15, and that the government has “clarified” the Haldane principle, which formerly protected the independence of academic research. The AHRC has since offered a statement contradicting some of the claims made by the Observer article, but in no way addressing the fundamental problem that the government's party political agenda should not be a part of the AHRC's research policy.
We are deeply troubled by these policies, and believe that they are profoundly at odds with the spirit of independent inquiry that animates the humanities. Government ministers are not in an appropriate position to instruct highly qualified scholars how to spend their time; one would have thought that this would be an axiom for a Conservative party that espouses the virtues of individuality and local control. Instead, the government is coercing scholars into giving over their research time to a facile political slogan.
Britain is home to many of the world’s best institutions for the study and teaching of the humanities. This government has already sacrificed the Arts and Humanities Teaching budget; this latest move will move Britain further along the road to losing its preeminence in the field. We demand that the government renounce political interference in humanities research, and reaffirm the principle of academic freedom that is vital to our work.
Benjamin Madden, Department of English and Related Literature, University of York Benjamin Poore, School of English and Drama, Queen Mary College, University of London
Observer article describing the Government's proposed changes: