Up front (British Academy Review, Summer 2018)

21 Jun 2018

Published in British Academy Review, No. 33 (Summer 2018).

In this issue

Welcome to this issue of the British Academy Review, published on the occasion of our first ‘British Academy Summer Showcase’.

The British Academy Review shares the goal of the Showcase, in illustrating the wide range of scholarship which the British Academy promotes in its role as the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Several articles in this issue are related to presentations at the Showcase. And through both of these channels, we have a great story to tell.

The articles by President of the British Academy, David Cannadine, and by Mary Beard, place the Academy’s disciplines at the heart of all attempts to examine our civilisation(s) and culture(s). And the overview by Chief Executive, Alun Evans, shows our subjects put to work, seeking ways to address the great challenges of our time.

One hundred years ago there were challenges aplenty, as the First World War was still very much in progress with no end in sight. But the two articles ‘From the Archive’ (Jerusalem article; Sanday article) reveal ways in which Fellows of the British Academy were looking ahead to the possibilities of peace, whenever that might come.

An enduring interest in all human concerns is the strength of the subjects that the Academy represents, and I hope you find much to engage you in this issue.

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First ever British Academy Summer Showcase 2018

The British Academy’s first ever Summer Showcase, held on 22-23 June 2018, is a free public festival of ideas for curious minds.

The Showcase celebrates and champions work carried out in the Academy’s disciplines – the humanities and social sciences. The 15 thought-provoking exhibits feature research that has been supported through the Academy’s wide range of programmes and activities, and provides visitors with the opportunity to meet the researchers and discuss their ideas. It is aimed at everyone interested in the big issues of the day, or timeless aspects of culture, or simply wants time to think in the Academy’s beautiful building.

Three of the articles in this issue tie in with Showcase exhibits – those by Helen McCarthy, Jennie Bradbury and Philip Proudfoot, and John Gordon.

After the live Showcase itself, information about the researchers and their exhibits can be found via www.britishacademy.ac.uk/summershowcase/2018

Exploring social integration

In the Spring 2018 issue, Professor Dominic Abrams, the British Academy’s Vice-President for Social Sciences, discussed the British Academy’s reports on social integration, published under the title “If you could do one thing…”. We have been very pleased to see that the Government’s long-awaited Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper has been informed by our reports. As well as engaging with officials working on the strategy, we have followed up by submitting a response to the Green Paper, pulling together insights from disciplines ranging from anthropology and languages to psychology and geography. Our response has stressed the importance of taking both a multidimensional and multilevelled view of integration, and has also proposed some important additional indicators that can be used to measure integration.

Championing study of the humanities and social sciences

In May 2018, the British Academy responded to the Government’s Review of Post-18 education and funding, urging the Government not to prioritise some subjects over others by charging variable levels of tuition fees. The Academy’s submission argued that a healthy, prosperous and global Britain needs a diversity of graduates to address future challenges, while highlighting the contribution graduates from the arts, humanities and social sciences make to the UK’s culture, economy and international reputation, and in jobs of social importance such as teaching and social work. The Academy points out the lack of strategic oversight and monitoring of provision of different disciplines across the UK higher education sector, and suggests that the national academies are well placed to undertake this function.

Mapping language teaching

The British Academy’s submission mentioned above also highlights a growing trend of universities to shrink or close courses in subjects, particularly in the humanities. Languages is an area of especial concern, with at least ten modern languages departments closed and a further nine significantly downsized in the last decade. The Academy is working with a range of partners to promote the value of languages across society, setting out the benefits for business and productivity, diplomacy and defence, research and educational attainment, social cohesion and social mobility, and health and well-being. This work will continue to be a key theme over the coming year, with activity focused on making the case for, and defining the content of, a national strategy to improve the UK’s linguistic capacity.

In May 2018, as a pilot project, the British Academy launched an online interactive map providing for the first time an overview of the provision of Arabic teaching throughout the education system.

Two of the articles in this issue – those by Petros Karatsareas and Khadij Gharibi – are on the pertinent theme of how knowledge of heritage languages is preserved in immigrant communities.

Archbishop speaks to British Academy

On 31 May 2018, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, discussed his recent book Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope, in conversation with President of the British Academy, Professor Sir David Cannadine. Describing the original motivation for the book, he said: ‘It started in a moment of exasperation after the [EU] Referendum – not over the result, which I accepted – but the sense that we had made a huge change in the way we were taking our country. It combined with the most enormous change in the circumstances around our economy, around technology, around biogenetics and many other areas. Climate change was also a contextual issue that was going to change everything. And we appeared to be doing this without that much concentration on what we wanted things to look like in 20 or 30 years time. So it was an aim to contribute to the conversation.’

Investigating English devolution

Since 2016 the British Academy has been investigating devolution in England – initially examining broad issues relating to the devolution settlements and their implications for England. More recently we have examined devolution in practice, and whether it will affect people’s lives in a way they will notice. In May 2018 we launched a publication – Governing England: Devolution and public services – which shows that the public has yet to engage fully with devolution in England, but this could change if people can link these reforms to changes to the services or infrastructure they use. Our work indicates that it is not the mayors that will make or break devolution, it is the services that people experience every day: health and social care, skills and infrastructure. Later this summer we will launch further work on public finance and spending in England. And later in 2018 we will launch a large academic publication in the Proceedings of the British Academy series: Governing England: English Identity and Institutions in a Changing UK.

Record number of Postdoctoral Fellowships awarded to women

The British Academy has been able to award 85 Postdoctoral Fellowships in 2017-18, the most ever in a single round – and two-thirds of them to women. These three-year fellowships are crucial for the early-career development of academics in the humanities and social sciences. Of the 85 awards, 45 are funded through our grant from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS); the other 40 have been made possible through an additional £10 million over four years from the UK government’s Global Talent Fund and Rutherford Fund.

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