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We would urge Mrs May’s government not to undermine the social sciences

New tuition fee proposals appear to question the value of the social sciences in comparison with STEM subjects

Bingley, UK, 20 February 2018 - While we will always welcome the removal of barriers to quality education and support the introduction of initiatives that reduce inequality, we are disappointed that the UK government’s new proposals in relation to tuition fees appear to question the value of the social sciences in comparison with STEM subjects.

There has never been a greater need than now for a culture of interdisciplinarity in which the STEM, medical and social sciences should combine on an equal footing to tackle critical global societal issues. 

And yet slashing tuition fees for the social sciences courses but not doing so for STEM subjects - on the basis of respective students’ potential future earnings - threatens to create silos between disciplines and endanger funding opportunities for interdisciplinary research that can be of major benefit to global society as a whole. 

Further, the message that there are supposed greater financial prospects to be had by studying a STEM subject rather than a social science is not only in itself unhealthy but also risks lessening the number or quality of students opting to study subject areas vital to the future management and care of the world around us.

It is worth highlighting that the social sciences are directly related and relevant to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Like the social sciences, the SDGs tackle the root causes of issues like poverty and unite us to make a positive change for both people and planet.

Social sciences courses enable us to look at the world differently – whether that be in relation to crime, society, health, community or culture – and help frame critical thinking and other competencies in students that are demanded by 21st century working environments.

We would welcome any system that creates greater education benefits for all and reduces graduate debt, but feel that there are inherent dangers in the undermining of social sciences and the creation of division between research disciplines. 

We would therefore urge Mrs May’s government to revisit their proposal.

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