British Academy President writes to Universities UK

26 Mar 2018

Dear Alistair,

I am writing in my capacity as President of the British Academy to express my own deep regret at the continuing dispute over pensions, and to report to you the concerns that have recently been passed on to me by many of our Fellows.

As I am sure you know, Fellows of the British Academy are the most distinguished academics working in the humanities and social sciences, and it is in significant part on account of their outstanding work that the UK's academic research is admired and acclaimed the world over. Our Fellows have given a huge amount to scholarship and the life of the mind, not only through their own work, but also by nurturing and supporting younger scholars who in their turn and in their time will become the next generation of academic leaders.

But the continuing current dispute reinforces a growing concern among many of our Fellows that beginning a career in academia now is a distinctly less attractive proposition than it was when many of them began their working lives. As a result, many of our Fellows are worried that the brightest young men and women will choose an alternative career path that is less precarious and much better rewarded. This would not be good for our universities or for the future of this country.

I am eager that you should be in no doubt that these general concerns, and the specific matters relating to pensions, dominated the conversations at our recent twice-yearly meeting of Fellows, across the whole range of the subjects in the humanities and social sciences for which the Academy speaks. Such was the strength of feeling that I feel duty bound to write on behalf of our Fellows and make these views known.

I do not intend to express an opinion on the specifics that you are currently discussing with the employer representative bodies in relation to pensions. The British Academy is neither a participant nor an expert in this area. However, I do urge you to do all you can to reach an agreement as soon as possible, and one that will especially ensure, going forward, that talented scholars are able to thrive, especially those at the beginning of their career.

With warmest regards and all good wishes,

Yours very sincerely,

Professor Sir David Cannadine

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