Democratic Freedom of the Humanities Threatened?

Funding cuts blamed for endangering democratic freedom of the humanities. Matthew Reisz reports

Humanities academics are in danger of being reduced to “intellectual lap dancers” by the radical changes to higher education in England, a history professor has warned.

Speaking at a conference in Cambridge, Richard Drayton, Rhodes professor of imperial history at King’s College London, likened the coalition government’s approach to the way in which Western funders imposed free-market ideologies on developing countries.

“Those who know what ‘structural adjustment’ meant in Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s will recognise what is being applied to Britain in the name of ‘austerity’,” he said.

“A nomadic global pirate class buys ‘onshore’ services from prostitutes and politicians, journalists, mercenaries and academics…(who) can become a kind of intellectual lap dancer, gyrating to excite the attention of the rich and to provoke small tips.”

What was depressing, added Professor Drayton, was that “most British scholars have made only token opposition to these changes”.

“The British Academy has offered cowardly hand-wringing, (while) vice-chancellors and many administrators have been active quislings, merely asking how they can best adapt to the new order,” he said.

Professor Drayton’s withering critique was made at a conference titled The Arts and Humanities: Endangered Species?, which took place last week at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge.

It brought together leading scholars “to articulate why and how the arts and humanities have been historically understood to matter” and how they should respond to current threats, including cutting the teaching grant for many disciplines.

Read full story, although University of Oxford is offering a larger number of post-doctoral Fellowships that usual to fight the tide, and an article by Adam Roberts which indicates that ‘the end is not nigh‘.

By Second World War Posters

Mass Communications Academic, @MMUBS. British Home Front Propaganda posters as researched for a PhD completed 2004. In 1997, unwittingly wrote the first history of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, which she now follows with interest.

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