– in the House of Lords at 2:44 pm on 9th February 2010.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as someone involved both in a professional and lay capacity in the work of universities.
My Lords, the Government will continue to invest in the very best research in the social sciences and humanities in UK higher education institutions. Funding through the economic, social sciences, arts and humanities research councils combined is due to rise to £286 million in 2010-11. The Higher Education Funding Council for England's research allocations for social sciences and humanities for 2009-10 total £517 million, and we are maintaining research funding to HEFCE in 2010-11.
My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that the social sciences and humanities are indispensible to generating an economically and socially successful society and to effective leadership in all dimensions of that society? Is there not a desperate need to reassert qualitative concerns in education as well as quantitative concerns? Is it therefore not important to realise that however significant STEM subjects are, STEM subjects without balancing research in social sciences can be dangerous?
I thank my noble friend for those remarks. We agree with him on the importance of arts and humanities research. While the arts and humanities research councils might not be as large as some other research councils, such as STEM research councils, it must be understood that social science and humanities researchers have significantly less need for expensive equipment and laboratories. The cross-council programmes bring social science and humanities expertise to bear on some of the most pressing issues of the day, such as living with environmental change, ageing, lifelong health, and well-being.
Does the Minister recall that the research councils are now asking investigators to comment on the impact of their research when they apply for a grant? Does he agree that to understand the impact of the research you have to understand the outcome of the research and that it is therefore fatuous to ask researchers to comment on the outcome before they have completed the research or have even started it?
My Lords, UK universities are world leaders in the humanities and social sciences. More than 50 per cent of overseas students are drawn to study here by the excellence of teaching and research. From the figures that he has already produced, perhaps the Minister could clarify the latest figures given by Mr David Lammy on
I thank the noble Baroness for her question. The international comparative performance of the research base published in September 2009 shows that social sciences and humanities in the UK maintain their ranking in the G8 in numbers of papers and citations, ranking second only to the USA. Since the Arts and Humanities Research Council was created on
My Lords, I did not detect an answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. Does the Minister accept that in order to ensure that social science and humanities research is adequately funded, the research excellence framework should be reviewed to assess whether the weighting towards impact needs to be amended?
I am not sure that I am competent to answer that question. I would rather not just have a go-I would rather get it right-tempting though the offer is from the Opposition. I will write on that aspect. I understand the point that is being made about impact and outcome, but surely the most important thing is ensuring that we get the right funding for research. At the same time we should recognise our standing internationally.
My Lords, we have yet to hear from the Labour Benches. We have already had one question from the Cross Benches.
My Lords, are not the problems that we see at the LSE an example of the difficulties that can be created? In particular, is it not worrying that emphasis in the changed criteria for research on the economic impact is necessarily disadvantageous to the humanities and the social sciences? Are we not putting at risk one of the glories of our educational system?
I thank my noble friend for that question. We do not think that we are putting those subjects at risk. Clearly, there is a balance to be struck. The share of funding for non-STEM subjects did not decline. In fact, funding for non-STEM subjects increased, although not as much as it would have done. Again, I stress the need for a balance. We need also to protect STEM from a decline in funding to get us out of the downturn and to equip our next generation with the skills to compete in global, high-skilled knowledge-based economies, and I make no apologies for that. Anyway, the two groups are complementary.
My Lords, the Minister answered the question put by his noble friend Lord Judd in terms of the levels of funding in the recent past, but has not answered it with regard to reassurance for the future. Given the Government's rather dubious criteria of functionality to render educational research worthwhile, is he aware that recent evidence suggests that for every £1 invested in humanities research, a return of some £10 is made to the economy? Thus, even on the Government's own criteria of the value of educational research, ring-fencing it for the future would be justified.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate that the creative economy is fundamentally important. I shall finish on this because we are running out of time. The combined budget of the Arts and Humanities Research Council is due to rise from £247 million in 2008-09 to £286 million in 2010-11. We are pledged to the future as well as the past.