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AHRC vision: discovering our world

At the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) we fund world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects from history and archaeology to philosophy and languages. We also fund more contemporary research including the design and effectiveness of digital content and the impact of artificial intelligence. See the full range of the research we fund on our disciplines page.

Our vision

Everything humans have ever thought, said, designed or performed falls into the remit of arts and humanities. We study what it is to be human, and the conditions that allow us to flourish or falter. All human history is in our scope, but so are the challenges of the present and the possibilities for our future.

The AHRC is the UK’s largest provider of response led and strategic funding, advanced skills training and career development across the whole range of arts and humanities.

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Our ambition is to sustain a rich, diverse and powerfully creative research ecosystem, which will engage with other constituents of UKRI and stakeholders across the United Kingdom and the world. The AHRC is committed to UKRI’s holistic vision of science, in which humanities and arts research is enriched and emboldened by engagement with technology, medicine and our environment, and informs and enriches those disciplines in turn. We will place our values, creativity and imagination at the heart of the reinvention of public life, successful economies, constructive civil discourse and a rich cultural infrastructure.

The AHRC reflects and supports a hugely diverse research community. We fund world-class research in all regions and nations of the UK, distributing funds without detriment to excellence, and we are deeply committed to international connectivity and to promoting and embodying values of equality, diversity and inclusion. We have spearheaded a successful collaboration of public and private partners in the Creative Industries, drawing on the strength of content and creativity among our researchers and IROs to provide business-facing and innovative outcomes, many of which have proved essential through the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will embed this success into a permanent transformation of the AHRC’s aims and objectives, to carry forward UKRI’s mission to convene, catalyse and invest to build a thriving and inclusive research and innovation system, involving research that connects discovery to prosperity and public good.


Discovering ourselves – Sustaining a culture of enquiry in our world

Arts and humanities research is invested in discovering new ways of understanding human culture. Our focus is on the infinite richness of human self-definition across time and culture, through action, word, object, gesture and image.

We endorse greater funding for discovery, to developing people and skills, and we are committed to distributing support in new ways. We will work with our IROs to develop more flexible postdoctoral provision and identify barriers to accessing doctoral provision, and strengthen outstanding talent in creative and performing arts research.

At a time when the United Kingdom is reinventing itself, its relations with others, and its relations with the environment, AHRC will convene imaginative and innovative research from its diverse community to sustain a culture of open and engaged enquiry.

Contemporary challenges – Researching how we have and how we should live together

AHRC combines research into ethics, written and visual language, multiple histories, and expression through art and culture, both elite and popular. The arts and humanities are society’s laboratory of the imagination: from concern for the environment to the cost-benefit analysis, ideas now accepted as normal began life, sometimes hundreds of years ago, in the arts and humanities. Because we offer an understanding of the past and an analysis of the present, we can imagine the future anew.

This enquiry has high public impact, as shown for example by our funded projects on Modern Slavery and the Ethics of AI. We intend to make a step change in our commitment to policy and evidence, building on links with BEIS, DCMS, FCDO and the Home Office, developing our public and stakeholder engagement, and driving deeper connections to public policy as it touches on and can be inflected by arts and humanities.

We aim through targeted investment to create new levels of sophistication in debate, for instance in Intergenerational Justice; to set standards for best practice where relevant; to collaborate on major priorities such as health and well-being, climate change and environment; and to be a leader both by example and through our research in equality, diversity and inclusion, for instance through our EDI fellowships.

Cultural assets – Conserving, and Curating our Cultural Infrastructure for the Future

The United Kingdom has one of the richest cultural collections in the world; an international attraction but also, from the great museums to local institutions, a cornucopia of treasures from across the globe.

Collections are forward-facing; bringing together objects, histories and ideas from the past and the present and preserving them for the future in ways that contextualise them and inform our better understanding of ourselves. Building on our work in Towards a National Collection, we aim to work across our HEIs and IROs, providing infrastructures for digital preservation and heritage science to catalyse interdisciplinary research, incentivise innovation and create investment across a widely distributed network of sites, providing support for diverse places, collections and communities.

The AHRC has been the ideal convenor to bring this cultural infrastructure fully into the 21st century, capitalizing on its potential for social and educational regeneration in the United Kingdom and globally, and preserving it for the future. We will continue to work towards a step-change in that contribution to the UK’s cultural eco-system.

Creative economy – Towards an Innovative Cultural Sector

The Creative Industries Clusters programme have been at the heart of UKRI’s investment in Creative Industries R&D, and have leveraged income, delivered jobs and driven innovation. We will continue our investments in levelling up and place-based investment, and our strong collaborations with the whole of UKRI and the creative industry sector, and work to deliver investments such as the virtual production infrastructure CoSTAR and a second phase of the Clusters programme.

The Creative Economy is now firmly rooted in AHRC’s core budget and operation as well as our outreach to other Councils, as we look to building on success and catalyse future innovation.

We have a further ambition, to use the lessons of our engagement with the creative industries to continue the transformation of AHRC into a central funder of creative and practice research. Our proposed major investment in design is an ambitious collaboration in one of our key industries, and our extension towards publishing and other businesses central to the dissemination of culture across the globe is a further sign of intent. We will target discovery funds towards research in performing and creative arts (for instance dance research and sustainable fashion) to incentivise supportive engagements with business; we will search out emergent ideas as we head towards the second quarter of the 21st century; and we will fertilize discovery research with the lessons we learn about creativity and cultural value. We understand this vision as a circle from discovery to challenge to curation to creativity.

We will build on AHRC’s distinctive focus on human creativity and culture over time and space, and improve our communication and public engagement to build awareness of the value of arts and humanities.

We are committed to embedding a broader vision of AHRC’s relevance and role across the research and cultural ecosystem in the UK and the world, to contributing to and shaping UKRI’s vision and objectives, and to imagining a prosperous, resilient and innovative future.

Further information

To find out more follow us on Twitter at @ahrcpress, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council, or Instagram at @ahrcpress.

AHRC is part of UK Research and Innovation. Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). UKRI brings together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.