Categories
Academic

Fears for the Humanities in British Universities.

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Interesting article in the Guardian this weekend – always lots to think about when we think about the purpose of the humanities and/or the way it is funded:

Currently fixed in the crosshairs are the disciplines of the humanities – arts, languages and social sciences – which have suffered swingeing funding cuts and been ignored by a government bent on promoting the modish, revenue-generating Stem (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects. The liberal education which seeks to provide students with more than mere professional qualifications appears to be dying a slow and painful death, overseen by a whole cadre of what cultural anthropologist David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs”: bureaucrats hired to manage the transformation of universities from centres of learning to profit centres. As one academic put it to me: “Every dean needs his vice-dean and sub-dean and each of them needs a management team, secretaries, admin staff; all of them only there to make it harder for us to teach, to research, to carry out the most basic functions of our jobs.” The humanities, whose products are necessarily less tangible and effable than their science and engineering peers (and less readily yoked to the needs of the corporate world) have been an easy target for this sprawling new management class.

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Categories
History

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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Academic Digital

Open Access Journals: Desirable and Inevitable?

1371280_do_you_dareInteresting piece from Times Higher Education:

We continue to witness a lot of back and forth between publishers and open-access advocates about the merits of Research Councils UK’s open-access policy – but where does it leave journal editors?

Some have echoed the publishers’ fears that open access will ruin their business models or undermine journal quality by scaring off top international authors. But not all editors share this view.

I co-edit two humanities journals: one, Shakespeare, for the large commercial publisher Taylor and Francis; the other, Theatre Notebook, for a small learned society (the Society for Theatre Research). I believe that open access is both desirable and inevitable since, as we move towards virtually cost-free digital dissemination, charging readers seems increasingly unjustifiable.

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Categories
History

Humanities: Key

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/500790
http://www.sxc.hu/photo/500790

The importance of humanities – it’s not all about ‘science’:

Given the range and complexity of global challenges, the marginalisation of the humanities in educational systems seems perverse. After all, the humanities are devoted to the study of the human condition and the ways in which individual and collective subjectivities contribute to shaping and improving it. For centuries the humanities were at the heart of education, and the study of art, history, languages and literature played determining roles in shaping concepts of national identity. Yet in recent decades governments have shifted focus away from the humanities, slashing funding and, more importantly, diminishing their influence.

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Categories
Academic

Science/Humanities?

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1157037

There’s space for interdisciplinarity – but is it happening?

Policymakers focusing on science’s utility have consigned the humanities to a supporting role, but scholars in each of the ‘two cultures’ understand that they share a love of discovery and capacity for wonder, says Martin Willis

I thought that we had, at last, left behind the “two cultures”: that phrase which, ever since C. P. Snow’s 1959 Rede Lecture, has served as shorthand for a divide between the sciences and the humanities. But everywhere I look in the broad bureaucracies of academic life I see its return, and not in any way that I find productive, even though this was certainly possible. The keynote of Snow’s lecture was, after all, to promote cooperation in an effort to improve society.

But isn’t this exactly what is happening? Aren’t the sciences and humanities being asked to collaborate as never before? Surely government initiatives, research councils’ interactions and the research excellence framework’s impact agenda all suggest a renewed dedication to cooperative and connected cross- disciplinary research? Don’t be fooled. There might have been efforts to make more robust the interactions between these fields, but the methods and philosophies that underpin such efforts are drawn only from the sciences.

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