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Flagship Skills Project: the Value of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Flagship Skills Project: the Value of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

The British Academy is launching an exciting new project which aims to articulate, for the first time, the skills that are inherent to the study of arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS), their value to the individual, and the contribution they do make and could make in future to society.

What is the British Academy Flagship Skills Project?

Building on the success of its Languages and Quantitative Skills (LQS) Programme, the British Academy is developing a new programme of work on skills. The flagship project of this programme aims to articulate the skills that are inherent to the study of arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS), their value to the individual, and the contribution they do make and could make in future to society as well as those that are important for educators of AHSS students to introduce directly. The Academy hopes to stimulate and facilitate a national debate about the nature and value of these skills, as well as setting the agenda for its own Skills Programme to 2020.

The project will seek to intellectualise what we mean by skills, and look at questions such as what skills should studying AHSS develop? What skills do individuals who have studied AHSS demonstrate? What contribution do individuals with AHSS skills make to society and the economy? What skills do employers want? What skills will be needed in the future?

To date, the Academy’s focus has been on addressing areas with marked deficits – languages on the one hand, and quantitative skills on the other hand. As the National Academy for the humanities and the social sciences, the Academy is ideally placed to extend this work to look at skills across the range of its disciplines, as well as those that are common across all the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Why now?

Despite the uncertain future ahead for the economy and labour market, it is clear that high-skilled jobs will become increasingly critical to the UK’s success.  Demand is growing for individuals to be equipped with higher level skills which they can deploy in different contexts, whether in a career which may cross many sectors of employment or within a research community which is increasingly interdisciplinary. Universities have a pivotal role to play in fostering the development of the necessary skills to meet the challenges of a transforming work force and solve the UK productivity puzzle. With increased university fees, parents and students expect even more than before to know what skills they will gain through their degree and how these will benefit them in life beyond higher education.

At the same time, technological development and access to large data sets is changing both how education is done and how we think about it. In an age of rapid and far-reaching social and technological change, the world is increasingly interconnected and complex. Skills are about how we can cope and adapt in a changing world and live and contribute to society individually and collectively.

It is therefore timely that a major piece of work in this area is undertaken. The project is due to report in Autumn 2017.

To find out more, download our introductory booklet here or from the right-hand side of this page.

British Academy Flagship Skills Project


Call for Evidence

About the Call for Evidence

To inform the flagship project, the British Academy wishes to establish an evidence base about the skills developed by studying AHSS and the contribution that individuals with those skills make to society and the economy. In recent years, the identification and definition of skills and the articulation of their value has been a topic of considerable debate in the general media and among policy makers in higher education and therefore a large body of material addressing the issue already exists.

The British Academy, under the guidance of the project Steering Group, has produced a summary and initial analysis of key evidence on AHSS skills. This document briefly summarises the key sources in this area, and explores the extent to which they provide the evidence which is required for the flagship project. It is structured around six questions:

  • What do we mean by skills?
  • What skills should studying AHSS develop?
  • What skills do individuals who have studied AHSS demonstrate?
  • What contribution do individuals with AHSS skills make to society and the economy?
  • What skills do employers want?
  • What skills are needed for the future?

The Call for Evidence document is available to download here or from the right-hand side of this page.


Governance

The flagship project will be overseen by an executive Steering Group, chaired by Professor Sir Ian Diamond. The Group will draw on the expertise of a larger Advisory Group.

Steering Group:

  • Professor Sir Ian Diamond FBA, FAcSS, FRSE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Aberdeen (Chair)
  • Professor Roger Goodman FAcSS, Chair, Academy of Social Sciences
  • Professor Martin Halliwell, Chair, the English Association, Co-Chair, Arts and Humanities Alliance
  • Chris Millward, Director of Policy, Higher Education Funding Council for England
  • Professor Tony McEnery, Director of Research, Economic and Social Research Council
  • Dr Julie McLaren, Associate Director of Programmes, Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Dr Rita Gardner, Director, Royal Geographical Society
  • Professor Simon Swain FBA, Pro-Vice-Chancellor External Engagement, University of Warwick
  • Professor Michael Wright FBA, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Imperial College London Business School
  • Shelagh Green, President, Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services
  • Philippa De Villoutreys, Head of Talent, Bank of England
  • Simon Blake, Chief Executive Officer, National Union of Students
  • Una O'Brien, Former Permanent Secretary, Department of Health and former Chair of the Civil Service Talent Board 

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