Monday, June 27, 2011

Senior Academics Resign Over Big Society

For immediate release: 27th June 2011


Senior academics have resigned from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Peer Review College over the inclusion of the “Big Society” in the AHRC’s delivery plan. This has come after the AHRC rejected calls for change from across the sector. The academics include many of the most senior and well respected figures in leading university departments. Some have served on the Peer Review College since its inception. This is not done lightly: the Peer Review College provides invaluable assistance in vetting research proposals submitted to the AHRC. The academics now call on their colleagues to join them in an en masse resignation unless the “Big Society” is removed from the AHRC delivery plan.

The AHRC delivery plan outlines the research council’s strategic priorities. The plan states that it aspires to make a “contribution” to the “Big Society” agenda (sects. 3.10, 3.12). One research programme (“Connected Communities”) will “enable the AHRC to contribute to the government’s initiatives on localism and the ‘Big Society’” (sect. 2.4.4).

The inclusion of the “Big Society” in the AHRC delivery plan has proved highly controversial. Petitions calling for the removal of the “Big Society” from the AHRC delivery plan have attracted signatures from nearly 4,000 academics. There have been several letters and opinion essays published in national and international news media. This position has won the support of more than 30 learned societies. This widespread and unprecedented public support crosses disciplinary and political divisions.

“This is a position of principle, not politics: political campaign slogans have no place in research council delivery plans. Period,” says Dr Thom Brooks, an academic at Newcastle University who has led this important campaign for change. “We call on the AHRC to agree the removal of the ‘Big Society’ from its delivery plan without delay or risk further resignations.”

Notes for Editors:

• More than 40 leading academics resign from Arts and Humanities Peer Review College in protest over the “Big Society” in the AHRC delivery plan.

• The campaign to remove the “Big Society” from the AHRC delivery plan has attracted unprecedented widespread support from across disciplinary and political divisions.

• More than 4,000 academics have signed public statements calling on the AHRC to make this change. This statement is endorsed by 30+ learned societies.


Name: Dr Thom Brooks

Tel: (0191) 222 5288


We announce our resignations from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Peer Review College because of the AHRC’s failure to remove the “Big Society” from its delivery plan. Our stand is personal as members of the academic community and it does not represent our home institutions.

Professor Grenville G. Astill, Professor of Archaeology, University of Reading

Professor Elleke Boehmer, Professor of World Literature in English, University of Oxford

Professor Stephen Bottoms, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies, University of Leeds

Professor Emma Borg, Professor of Philosophy, University of Reading

Dr Thom Brooks, Reader in Political and Legal Philosophy, Newcastle University

The Revd Professor Mark D. Chapman, Vice Principal, Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford

Professor Sarah Colvin, Professor in the Study of Contemporary Germany, University of Birmingham

Dr Peter M. Day, Reader in Archaeological Materials, University of Sheffield

Professor Antony Duff FBA FRSE, Professor of Philosophy, University of Stirling

Professor Steven French, Professor of Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds

Professor David Gillespie, Professor of Russian, University of Bath

Professor Leslie Green, Professor of the Philosophy of Law, University of Oxford

Professor Valerie A. Hall FSA FHEA, Professor Emerita of Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast

Professor Paul L. Halstead, Professor of Archaeology, University of Sheffield

Professor John Harrington, Professor of Law, University of Liverpool

Professor Matti Häyry, Professor of Bioethics and Philosophy of Law, University of Manchester

Professor Nicholas Hewlett, Professor of French Studies, University of Warwick

Professor Maggie Humm, Professor in Humanities, University of East London

Professor Mark Humphries, Professor of Ancient History, Swansea University

Professor Dina Iordnaova, Director of Centre for Film Studies, University of St Andrews

Professor Glynis Jones, Professor of Archaeology, University of Sheffield

Professor Debra Kelly, Professor of French and Francophone Literary and Cultural Studies, University of Westminster

Dr Elizabeth Eva Leach, University Lecturer in Music, University of Oxford

Professor Karen Leeder, Professor of Modern German Literature, University of Oxford

Professor Alison MacLeod, Professor of Contemporary Fiction, University of Chichester

Professor Alexander Miller, Professor of Philosophy, University of Birmingham

Professor Anthony Milton, Professor of History, University of Sheffield

Dr Catherine Moriarty, Principal Research Fellow, University of Brighton

Professor Rosalind O’Hanlon, Professor of Indian History and Culture, University of Oxford

Professor David Owen, Professor of Social and Political Philosophy, University of Southampton

Dr Paul B. Pettitt FSA, Reader in Palaeolithic Archaeology, University of Sheffield

Dr Stephen Parkinson, Lecturer in Portuguese Language and Linguistics, University of Oxford

Professor Julian Preece, Professor of German, Swansea University

Professor Ritchie Robertson FBA, Taylor Professor of German, University of Oxford

Professor Irit Rogoff, Professor of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor Karen Ross, Professor of Media and Public Communication, University of Liverpool

Professor Sean Sayers, Professor of Philosophy, University of Kent, Canterbury

Professor Ricarda Schmidt, Professor in German, University of Exeter

Professor Patrick Stevenson, Professor of German and Linguistic Studies, University of Southampton

Professor Robert Vilain, Professor of German, University of Bristol

Professor David Walker, Professor of French, University of Sheffield

Professor Paul Williams, Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy, University of Bristol

Professor Ian Wood, Professor of Early Medieval History, University of Leeds

AHRC Peer Review College members who have resigned already on this issue:

Professor Bob Brecher, Professor of Ethics, University of Brighton

Professor M. M. Lisboa, Professor of Portuguese Literature and Culture, University of Cambridge

UPDATE: Further resignations have followed this press release:

Dr Roger Sansi-Roca, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, Goldsmiths

Peter Seddon, Reader in Arts Practices and Historiography, Brighton University

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