The British Academy responds to the Levelling Up white paper

2 Feb 2022

The British Academy has today responded to the government’s white paper on levelling up, which sets out the government’s plans to address geographic inequalities in the United Kingdom.

Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy, said:

"The British Academy welcomes the publication of the Levelling Up white paper. Geographical inequality was a recurring theme in our COVID Decade reports, and the government is right to address it. We are pleased that investing in research and development continues to be a priority. As engines of new ideas, skills acquisition and jobs creation, universities are central to the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of their communities, so it is vital that we support them. This is all the more important now that we are no longer able to receive the EU’s Structural Funds, which amounted to €1.39 billion over 2014-2020 and did much to boost economic development and address inequalities, especially in the devolved nations. The aim to increase public investment in R&D outside the South East of England is therefore welcome but levelling up R&D requires more than just money. Universities play a vital role in securing inward investment and we must safeguard their global connections and attractiveness to the best researchers around the globe.

"Research and skills acquisition across the SHAPE subjects (the Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy) will be crucial to the levelling up agenda. As our work has shown, anthropologists, economists, historians, linguists and psychologists provide invaluable insights into contemporary challenges such as building vaccine engagement. The arts and cultural sectors also play a vital role in deprived communities, underpinning jobs, health, and social infrastructure, boosting productivity and paving the way for more investment and regeneration, and they must be supported.

"If government is to achieve its objectives, ongoing evaluation of the impact of its spending on regional development is paramount. Here too SHAPE researchers will be well-placed to advise. Whether it is economists on productivity, historians on local cultural identities or geographers on regional disparities, our subjects can provide the evidence-based policy proposals and rigorous evaluations required to make the levelling up agenda successful."

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