UK academic funding and ‘impact’

‘Impact’ is the new buzz-word in British academia. All funding applications to government research bodies must now include a statement on the work’s likely impact outside academia. And the proposed plans for the new REF (the exercise that will allocate research funding to departments nationally) will weight impact heavily in decisions. Now, this might at first sound good for such things as feminist philosophy. I had a happy moment when I thought that this policy might cause departments to suddenly place more value on research into topics that e.g. matter politically. (Though I did worry about its effect on more traditional areas, which I also value despite considering feminist philosophy undervalued.) But looking at the quite extensive discussion of impact by the Arts and Humanties Research Council that hope began to fade. Unless your work on gender is likely to feed into testimony at the House of Commons or your work on discrimination is going to be utilised by multinational corporations, it looks to me like impact will be just as hard to show for feminist philosophers as for most Arts and Humanities types. Which will only accelerate the current drive to slash Arts and Humanities funding. And which will probably affect philosophy particularly hard. So I’m signing this simple petition calling on the UK government to allocate funding on the basis of academic merit. It’s worth noting that current plans also call for a merging of subject review boards, so that philosophy departments will be assessed by the same board assessing theology and religion departments. That’s clearly madness, and the petition speaks to this point as well. (Unfortunately you’ve got to be either a UK resident or a UK citizen to sign.)

5 thoughts on “UK academic funding and ‘impact’

  1. O dear. Still, there is lots of stuff about life-long learning, deepening cultural identity, cultural cohesion, intellectual capital, increasing England’s intellectual profile, and so on.

    Perhaps for a start courses in philosophy could all be relabeled; e.g., “British philosophers’ glorious contributions on Logic, along with that of some others.” Or perhaps “How the British Solved the Mind-Body Problem.” Or even “British Empiricism from Aristotle onward.” That gives one identity, cohesion, capital and profile.

  2. Ugh. But this, of course, is how everything is measured by capitalism: one is valuable insofar as one contributes to the bottom line.

    (Perhaps all the Marxist theory I’ve been researching and teaching lately has made me a bit cynical. Perhaps.)

  3. I am a feminist. I am a philosopher. I am a Classicist. So I am stuck in three seemingly opposed and very traditional ivory towers. Any ‘impact’ I would have seems small. Pointless, right? But small things have powers (atoms, right?). And working to change policy and awareness means working outside of ivory towers. Of pushing our work to mean and act outisde the theory of academic integrity.
    The questions that spring to mind about this petition is who decides ‘Academic Merit’ anyway (what the hell is it? A diktat from some dusty white misogyny?): what power/class dynamic is going on there? Why the hell are Ivory Towers scared of Impacting outside, of daring to talk to people who haven’t be classed as ‘Academic’ or who merit gowns and letters after their name? Signing this petition is to sign that all the attempts at asking the Academy to think differently- to be open- all our work, our lives- has had no impact. To sign it seems to me to right of my work, the work of my predessors and the work we are all working towards- to change and make thinking (Academic Merit, if you) mean something to people, not just to league tables….
    Just a thought.

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