Skip to content

Why Start a Blog? Recent Reflections on the Humanities & Social Sciences.

Posted October 24 2010

I‘ve started this blog, not coincidentally, on the weekend when Britain’s Lib Dem government announced 40% cuts to its universities. Especially hard hit have been the humanities and social sciences: where the so-called STEM subjects (sciences, technology, engineering, and math) find themselves comparatively insulated from the full force of the budget cuts, the humanities and social sciences have been targeted by the national austerity plan.

English Department Sale!

What’s happening today in the UK provides a cautionary tale for those interested in the future of the humanities and social sciences elsewhere.

This is a story foreshadowed by a pattern of converging agendas and announcements. According to the New York Times News Service, last spring Middlesex University reported that “it intended to close its philosophy department. Cardiff University in Wales announced proposals to reduce the teaching staff in its modern languages department to 10 people, from 22. King’s College London said it would abolish its chair in paleography, the study of ancient handwriting — the only such post in Britain. After an international outcry, it proposed creating a new position in ‘paleography and manuscript studies” that would be “fully funded from philanthropic monies.'”

Today we hear from Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, a British think tank, that “Some universities are really going to be struggling and will probably fail.”

Perhaps more than ever, then, those of us teaching and researching in the Arts need to communicate the value of our work. Most of us do just that in our classrooms and through our publications–and through our work in our communities; however, it seems clear we need to make an even stronger and more public (more accessible?) case for the social and educational and economic value of our disciplines.

For the last ten years I’ve been engaged in (indeed, have become a convert to) community-based research. The impact of that research on the quality of life in our immediate community, on students, on teaching, on the research questions asked and answered–and on me–has been profound. I’m hopeful that the story of that collaborative research journey, a journey that still continues, may provide in part a useful anodyne to the view that the humanities and social sciences are becoming a luxury we can no longer afford.

For those wishing to hear a recent, lucid discussion regarding the UK experience, click on the following British Academy Panel Discussion link: Arts, humanities and social sciences: Why should we care?

Recording Community Memory Maps

Recording Community Memory Maps


  1. Mr WordPress wrote:

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  2. garrettpetts wrote:

    Here’s Stanley Fish’s take on these issues in the Opinionator

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *