Pressure continues to intensify. The pettition calling for the removal of the "Big Society" from the AHRC delivery plan has attracted more than 3,200 signatures. Now several leading learned societies have agreed this signed letter:
"The reaction of the Arts and Humanities Research Council to widespread concern within the academy at the role that the "Big Society" plays in its "Delivery Plan" causes us grave concern. The AHRC has responded as if the objections arose solely because of the claim (which we are assured is false) that it had been ordered to put its money into programmes that contributed to the government's agenda. Rather, we are deeply disturbed by the voluntary alignment of research programmes to political slogans. The independence of the research councils must be paramount, and their priorities must be determined by academic judgement.
We call on the AHRC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to eschew party political slogans or brands in academic research plans, and demand their immediate removal. Their presence undermines academic independence and damages our international reputation for academic integrity and quality.
The AHRC has established a precedent that political slogans can be publicised by research council documents and that research will be focused on them. Unless this is undone, any future administration can legitimately expect its campaign slogans to appear in research council documents and plans. In this case the phrase is "Big Society", but we would be no less opposed were it the term "Third Way"."
The societies include:
Architectural Humanities Research Group
Association of University Departments of Theology and Religious Studies
Association of University Professors and Heads of French
Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy
British Philosophical Association
British Association for American Studies
British Association for Jewish Studies
British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies
British Association for Study of Religions
British Society for 18th-Century Studies
British Society for the History of Science
British Society of Aesthetics
British Sociological Association
Council of University Classics Departments
English Goethe Society
Modern Humanities Research Association
National Association for Music in Higher Education
National Association of Writers in Education
Economic History Society
Political Studies Association Media and Politics Specialist group
Royal Musical Association
The British Society for Ethical Theory
The Council of the British Association for Korean Studies
The Philological Society
The Society for French Studies
The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies
UK Sartre Society
This is surely unprecedented support. Often learned societies are conservative institutions and such widespread support across the arts and humanities is a clear sign of strong disatisfaction. Let us hope that together we can make a difference...