British academy


16 Jun 2010

British Academy President challenges “sterile and outdated notion” of two cultures.   

Drastic funding cuts to university and research budgets will imperil the massive contribution to the UK’s economic, social and cultural life made by the humanities and social sciences, the President of the British Academy, Sir Adam Roberts, will warn today.

Launching a new booklet Past, Present and Future (1.6MB, PDF) in the House of Commons, as part of Universities Week, Sir Adam will highlight the “enormous reservoir of public value” which these disciplines generate, outlining their contribution to Britain’s health, wealth and international reputation.

He will also challenge “the sterile and outdated notion of a society of two cultures” - drawing attention to the increasing mutual dependencies of the natural sciences and the humanities and social sciences in responding to the major social challenges of our age.
The booklet identifies some of the major national and international issues such as climate change, international security, economic recovery and cultural heritage, which cannot be addressed without contributions from economists, lawyers, historians, linguists, philosophers, critics, archaeologists, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists.

Moreover Past, Present and Future shows the direct economic impact the study of these disciplines has on the UK economy, revealing that over a seven-year period, there has been a rise of over 60% in the number of international students coming to the country to study these subjects, and live (and spend) here. 

The booklet gives a range of examples of the impact of humanities and social science research.  It shows how the Stern Review, led by economist Lord Nicholas Stern, drew attention to the economic, social and human impacts of climate change; how leading historian, David Cesarani, a specialist in the holocaust, has influenced government policy on war crimes; and how legal experts are tackling the dilemmas which new digital technologies are creating in crucial areas of regulation, trust and privacy.

Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy said:

“The recent increase in the number of students from overseas studying the humanities and social sciences outstrips those studying other subjects, so we must be doing something right.

“While we all recognise the severity of the UK’s economic challenges, it is worrying that  research that is so essential to our country’s health, wealth and international reputation could be put in jeopardy. 

“How can we tackle terrorism without a deep understanding of the phenomenon – and how terrorist campaigns actually end?  How can we slow climate change if we don’t support work on how people change their behaviour?  How can we make medical and scientific advances without analysing their human and ethical implications? 

“The inter-dependencies of science and the humanities and social sciences have never been clearer in the fast-paced, technologically advanced world we now live.  It is vital we make sure these disciplines are sustained in order to protect our long-term interests as a nation.”


Past, Present and Future: The Public Value of the Humanities and Social Sciences will be launched formally in a reception at the House of Commons on Thursday 17 June 2010 at 4pm.  Speakers will include Lord Patten of Barnes (Chancellor of Oxford University) and Professor Steve Smith (President of Universities UK)

For further information, please contact:

Kate Turnbull, Press and PR Manager:  0207 969 5263 /


• Past Present and Future is available for free download at, or call 02079695263 to obtain a free copy

• The launch of Past, Present and Future is part of Universities Week, which celebrates the diverse achievements of the UK’s higher education sector.

• The inaugural Universities Week is taking place from 14-20 June 2010, and aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities.   Over 100 universities and linked organisations are involved in the week.  Nationwide activity will include open days and debates for members of the public to attend.  A full list of events taking place can be found at Please direct any media enquiries about Universities Week to Ian Morton:        
020 7419 5424

• The British Academy, established by Royal Charter in 1902, is the national body that champions and supports the humanities and social sciences. It aims to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement across the UK and internationally.   For more information, please visit