Delivering people to the labour market

by Chris Bertram on February 5, 2008

I thought that “delivering people to the labour market” was the principal function of public transport rather than higher education. It seems that the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Britain’s government agency charged with supporting research in this area thinks differently, since that is one of the headings of their most recent strategy document, the AHRC “Delivery plan” (pdf). I won’t go on, since Leiter has already covered the issue and linked to Simon Blackburn’s piece in the THES (and see also the comment by occasional CT-commenter Mike Otsuka under Blackburn’s article). The AHRC headquarters are local to me, so I can fantasize about a re-staging of the 1831 Bristol riots, with AHRC’s plate-glass headquarters being torched by the enraged citizenry. That won’t happen.



Jacob Christensen 02.05.08 at 5:22 pm

And I thought the Swedish anställningsbarhet (which would translate into something like employability) was a wonderfully Orwellian term.

The students and their organisations in this part of the world have embraced the idea wholeheartedly, though.


James Ladyman 02.05.08 at 5:55 pm

Interested parties may like to take a look at the composition of the AHRC Council of academics. It features a ridiculously high proportion of people involved in film, tv and theatre studies. The areas that they have decided are strategically important are highly correlated with the areas they represent. To my mind this is scandalous. A further point is that the AHRC is moving to a block grant scheme for PGs. They will no longer have to administer the very large number of applications by individual students. An opportunity to cut administrative costs and channel more funding to research? Of course not. The staff will be retrained as liaison officers who will go around universities holding meetings about the block grants scheme with the people in universities who like holding meetings.


leederick 02.05.08 at 7:34 pm

Is the block grant really that terrible? What it will mean is that studentships are earmarked for particular lines of research, rather than students having a free choice. This is standard practice elsewhere in academica. For plenty of studentships in non-humanities areas funding is directly linked to a particular thesis – let alone a particular subject theme. The EPSRC and ESRC have been doing this for ages. You don’t see people in any other academic area complaining about this.


Dave 02.05.08 at 8:11 pm

Block grants: no, it will mean that the recruitment of PhD students is earmarked for certain institutions, by state fiat… students will still, by and large, propose their own research topics, because that’s what humanities students do, but now the ‘posh’ universities will be able to dangle ARHC funding in front of them to add to all their other advantages…


James Ladyman 02.05.08 at 8:18 pm

Er I didn’t say or imply that the block grant scheme was terrible. I said that it would be an opportunity to cut costs but that they weren’t doing so.


engels 02.05.08 at 9:38 pm

Not to condone the AHRC, but basing themselves in Bristol must put them a notch or two, on the “Let them eat cake” factor, above HEFCE which iirc has its offices at the top of Centre Point (a huge tower in the middle of London’s main shopping district). I’ve often wondered how many PhD studentships the rent for that place would fund.

I thought “delivering people to the labour market” was what the Russian mafia do.


floopmeister 02.05.08 at 10:10 pm

I thought “delivering people to the labour market” was what the Russian mafia do.

Yeah, but midwives have been doing it for much longer.


yangguizi 02.06.08 at 12:10 am

The AHRC decision to focus on the cultural industries has, I suspect, less to do with the empire-building skills of people in Film/Television/Theatre and more to do with government dictat. We had a visit from an AHRC minion last term, and she said as much – i.e. that they had been instructed to focus on areas of potential economic/industrial interest, of which the cultural industries was one.


John Quiggin 02.06.08 at 6:35 am

The saving grace is that anyone with the linguistic and rhetorical skills required of a PG student in the humanities ought to be able to explain exactly why their study of 17th century pastoral verse is the shot in the arm the British cultural industry so desperately needs.

Similar efforts at targeting research funds have flopped pretty badly in Australia, for this and other reasons – nearly everyone could find some way of fitting their project into one of the deserving categories.


Chris Bertram 02.06.08 at 8:16 am

John, I suspect you’re right about 17th century pastoral verse, but I think that explaining the payoffs to the tourist industry of a research programme in some aspects of logic might be a stretch too far.


chris armstrong 02.06.08 at 10:57 am

HEFCE do have an office in Centre Point, but their other office – the bigger one? – is in Bristol, like the AHRC. So some brownie points there, but less.


Jimmy Doyle 02.06.08 at 2:24 pm

The offices of the AHRB (as was) used to have these massive, two-inch thick smoked-glass plaques on their walls, engraved with the letters AHRB. I always wondered how many PhDs in philosophy could have been funded from their smoked-glass plaque budget. Off to the landfill presumably when the ‘Board’ was upgraded to a ‘Council’ (an event which the body sought to portray as — and very possibly believed to be — a momentous triumph).


MFA 02.06.08 at 3:01 pm

I thought public transportation delivers labour to the locus of capital.

Generally, it’s fed-up parents who deliver people to the labour market.



David 02.07.08 at 8:45 am

“I always wondered how many PhDs in philosophy could have been funded from their smoked-glass plaque budget.”

And how many nurses could be funded from each PhD in Philosophy, and so on ad infinitum.


Jimmy Doyle 02.07.08 at 10:01 am

The point is that it was the AHRB’s function to fund PhDs, David.

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