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As leaders at UK universities wrestle with our financial positions, with ever-increasing restraints on a healthy bottom line, we often feel we are forced to look beyond our academic ideal of a commitment to all subject areas, making cutbacks in places we think it will be least painful.

As a pro vice chancellor of a faculty comprised entirely of SHAPE subjects, Arts, Design, Humanities, and Social Sciences, I remain deeply committed to these disciplines, knowing, though, that external forces continue to threaten their survival. Survival depends on many things, but perhaps, more than anything, it depends on academics willingly and happily showing off what we think might cheapen our quest for knowledge: that our disciplines not just generate and contribute to social and public good, but they also contribute to the employability profile of our graduates and to the socio-economic health of our communities, regions, and beyond.

For too long, SHAPE subjects have been downplayed to the seemingly more generative force of STEM. This is a problematic binary that has meant the sector (and beyond) are forced into making false economies. For instance, a refrain running throughout a recent British Academy report is that SHAPE impact demonstrates a research commitment to the higher good, which drives public knowledge leading to behavioural changes that benefit people’s local communities, regions, as well as the national and global landscape. While the report does not make any recommendation to preserve SHAPE education, it comes only a year after the House of Lord’s report that the creative industries are vital to the local, regional, and national socio-economic good and that we must continue to educate students in order to fulfil this promise; something quite similar to this HEPI report on Humanities or this analysis by the English Association.

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