How do you defend the humanities?

13Interesting debate tying into the bigger question of what are universities for – is it just about finding a job, or is there something more important going on there?

A leading critic of government higher education policy has launched a stinging attack on the University of Oxford, accusing it of being disingenuous in its arguments in favour of the humanities.

Stefan Collini, professor of English literature and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge, attacked an Oxford report released in July showing that from 1960 to 1989, its humanities graduates had shifted from teaching to careers in finance, law and the media.

Such alumni had therefore “proven highly responsive to national economic needs”, argues Humanities Graduates and the British Economy: The Hidden Impact.

Professor Collini, speaking more generally about how the academy should put forward non-economic arguments in support of universities, quoted from the study and called it a “saddening illustration of how not to do it”, although he did not mention Oxford by name.

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Funding the Uneconomic?

1422405_money_polandWell yes, there are some things that can’t be recognised in monetary terms, so how do we ensure that such initiatives get funded?

“The relevant, recognised and desirable impacts of research, we are told repeatedly, go way beyond the purely economic. There are some things in life which cannot be measured in economic terms – and this includes many research impacts,” he writes.


But he notes that in its attempts to justify the economic impact of research, the Arts and Humanities Research Council – whose literature “sometimes suggests that it is really desperate to demonstrate impact” – inevitably concentrates on the research it funds in heritage, archaeology and museums, which feed into fee-charging exhibitions.

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BOOK REVIEW: Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet

Looks like it could be worth a look:

For most of us, our relationship with spam began almost gently: those short, jokey email messages reaching out to us from distant lands, with an intriguing, almost whimsical character. But they quickly grew into more forceful entreaties to help, support, defend or publicise some victim of an injustice we didn’t understand in a place we’d never heard of, adverts for exotic pharmaceuticals with the alleged power to enhance pretty much any body part you could think of. Then bizarre offers began to arrive that promised huge rewards in exchange for granting the simplest of help to someone caught out on the wrong side of a conflict, coup d’etat, bereavement or legacy – interspersed with excited, conspiratorial messages about stocks in not-quite-familiar companies whose value was on the verge of going through the roof, honest.

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BOOK REVIEW: Hollywood & Hitler 1933-1939

9598_hollywood_and_hitler_thomas_dochertyLooks interesting:

Right up to, and even for a while after, the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, the predominant attitude in Hollywood towards fascism was classic three-wise-monkeys strategy – pretend it’s not there and perhaps it’ll go away. Partly this was due to the belief that movie-going audiences would be turned off by politics: that “the purpose of the screen, primarily”, as Joseph I. Breen, the industry’s all-powerful censor, maintained, “is to entertain and not to propagandize”. (His italics.) No less influential was the fear that any films that offended the Nazi government might entail the loss of the German market to the studio involved. There was little risk of anyone overlooking this last consideration: the German consul in Los Angeles, Georg Gyssling, kept himself closely informed on all forthcoming movie projects and was quick to complain to Breen, to the relevant studio heads or even to Washington about anything he believed might impugn the honour of the Führer or the Reich.

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BUNAC Archives: Anyone find a home?

imagesBUNAC – I nearly looked to go with them for my first overseas experiences…

“Ultimately, if we cannot find a home for this material, it will finish up going through the shredder and being recycled. I think that would be a tragedy, but I cannot see an alternative,” David Heathcote, former Bunac national committee member, told Times Higher Education.

“The material traces the changes in attitude among young people to the US from the time of the Vietnam War to the present day. There must surely be a PhD thesis in the material, at least.

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