Nip & Tuck: The Humanities and Social Sciences under the Knife

King, Carolyn orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3347-2971 (2015) Nip & Tuck: The Humanities and Social Sciences under the Knife. ATINER CONFERENCE PAPER SERIES No: EDU2015-1448, EDU201 (5-1448). ISSN 2241-2891

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The British government has cut funding for teaching the humanities and social sciences by 100%. This monumentally foolish decision directed by Lord Browne – the former CEO of BP, who arguably has no connection, experience or qualifications to oversee educational provision – was implemented by the Coalition. Lord Browne’s Report argues that STEM subjects; science, technology, economics and mathematics are prioritised as strategically important subjects for higher education, securing a sustainable future for them. Browne here seems to be suggesting that encouraging students to think, engage with critique, analysis and evaluation (as the humanities and social sciences do) is harmful to the longevity of educational provision. This is not only senseless it is restrictive to development opportunities and employability enhancement for young people. To imply that art, culture, language, history, philosophical and theological debate, interfaith dialogue etc. are irrelevant to society is absurd.
This ill-considered and very short sighted decision is extremely dangerous long term, and will have far reaching consequences. Indeed, we are already seeing the repercussions as consumerism and marketization take priority over education; Britain’s universities are fast becoming the most expensive in the world – those that have not had to close down – impacting upon the social and cultural experience of young people and also their social capital and mobility.
We have all seen the ‘botched’ jobs of unqualified cosmetic surgeons and the long standing, often irrevocable consequences of the ‘nip n tuck’ that promised so much and gave so little. The consequence of these surgical attempts made by incompetent so-called practitioners cause severe anguish and distress at best and extreme complications, radical or permanent damage at worst. Basically, a negligent ‘incision’ not only causes long and far reaching damage, it is extremely difficult to rectify incurring unwarranted expenditure. Perhaps something Lord Browne should consider when he assumes the power of a would-be ‘cosmetic surgeon’, and rather than attempting a procedure he is ill equipped to deal with – cutting funding from crucial sections of education – he should leave the decisions to professional educationalists.
This paper discusses the implications of funding cuts to the humanities and social sciences and argues that government utilitarian reasoning is radically short-sighted. The humanities and social sciences are crucial to understanding society – past, present and future – and the complexities of relationships; local, national and international. Indeed, the humanities and social sciences are the foundations of democracy and therefore essential to understanding economies.

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