AHRC and ‘Big Society’ – action needed

Posted on behalf of Thom Brooks. Please read and consider writing:

Dear friends and colleagues,

My thanks again for your support in the campaign to persuade the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to remove the “Big Society” from its current delivery plan. Please take a moment to read this important message.

We have widespread support for our campaign. Our petitions have attracted over 4,000 signatures from across disciplines and political divisions. Signatories include Fellows of the British Academy and Royal Society. More than 30 learned societies agreed a joint statement in support of the petition. Hundreds of emails and letters of support have been sent to Rick Rylance, the AHRC CEO. The UCU has supported our campaign and the Rt Hon David Willetts (Minister of State for Universities and Science) has recently remarked on the “hazard” of including political campaign slogans in research council delivery plans. The support has been truly unprecedented and the issue has received much media coverage. This includes new articles published in the Guardian recently: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jun/19/academics-quit-over-big-society

This has encouraged the Shadow Universities minister, Gareth Thomas MP, to write to Willetts to demand action: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jun/20/labour-steps-into-big-society-row?CMP=twt_fd

The AHRC response has been disappointing. They continue to reject calls for this brief, but important, change to the AHRC Delivery Plan. We argue a point of principle, not politics: political campaign slogans have no place in research council delivery plans for strategic funding priorities. Period. I believe we are now at a critical moment and I request your help:


I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. If you are also a member, then please contact me ASAP by THURSDAY MORNING, 24th JUNE to confirm whether you are willing to join me with many others and resign on MONDAY, 27th JUNE if no action is taken on amending the AHRC Delivery Plan. I will offer a press release later this week. Resignation is surely a last resort, but I believe that all avenues have been explored without success. While I hope we need not act on our threat, it is clear that we must now come together and show the strength of our support for our principled position. I hope all AHRC Peer Review College members will accept this call — and please circulate this message to anyone on the College.


Please write to the AHRC and voice your continued support for our campaign. The AHRC appears to believe our opposition is fading: in fact, it is growing and recent publicity in the Guardian confirms this. Contact information includes the AHRC CEO Professor Rick Rylance (r.rylance@ahrc.ac.uk) and AHRC Chairman Professor Sir Alan Wilson(executive@ahrc.ac.uk).


Please write to David Willetts and voice your support. You might use the following template:


Dear Rt Hon Willetts,

I want to share my support for the campaign to remove the “Big Society” from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Delivery Plan. This is a position of principle, not politics: political campaign slogans should have no place in research council delivery plans. This position is endorsed by over 4,000 academics and 30+ learned societies as well as the UCU.

Petitions (see http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/thebigsociety/) have drawn support from across disciplines and political divides. Please communicate to the AHRC the importance of taking action and removing this campaign slogan immediately.

Yours sincerely,


I believe that the momentum is on our side and positive action likely, but only if we act together and we act fast. I hope I can look forward to your support one last time. We are very close to achieving our goal and defending an important principle.

Sorry for the formatting errors earlier; hopefully now fixed.

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