We are creating a unified UKRI website that brings together the existing research council, Innovate UK and Research England websites.
If you would like to be involved in its development let us know.

Project to understand the value of arts and culture launched today

Date: 19/07/2012

A project that will advance our understanding of the value of culture was launched today. Directed by Professor Geoffrey Crossick, who steps down at the end of this month as Vice Chancellor of the University of London, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the project will run for two years and will address central questions concerning the value of arts and culture to individuals and to society. In doing so, the project will engage a wide range of academics and cultural organisations both in the UK and overseas.

It is widely understood that culture brings considerable economic benefit to the UK, including through the arts and creative industries. But there is also widespread agreement that to understand these benefits in economic terms alone is to miss some of the most important contributions that the arts and culture bring to individuals and to society. The challenge is to develop additional perspectives that are persuasive in method and offer compelling detail and substance. That is the task before the project and the researchers who will work on it.

The project will support researchers to investigate the perspectives on the value of culture which are most important and the methods that are best suited to investigate them, and it will do so through open call and peer review judgment. It will develop a range of outcomes: methodological investigation and testing, an evidence base through case studies and other means, and conceptual and comparative discussion of a complex problem too often over-simplified. Through these outcomes the Project will clarify research-led understanding of an area often dominated by assertion; it will gather and develop robust evidence to inform policy development; and it hopes to pioneer fresh and revealing approaches that will affect the ways in which we discuss the issue. The AHRC expects it to stimulate broad public debate on the true value of arts and cultural activity and its vital importance for our future.

The UK is not the only country to discuss the value of arts and cultural activity, nor is the twenty-first century the only time when it has been addressed. As a result, the project will have important international and historical dimensions and will embrace inter-disciplinary research across a wide range of disciplines. In doing so, it will be crucial to build partnerships nationally and internationally in support of the work.

Professor Crossick said: I feel very excited by the opportunity to lead a project of such urgent contemporary significance. I've been struck by the very positive responses of those with whom I've already discussed it in the cultural sector and in universities, here in the UK and in many other parts of the world. The economic impact of cultural activity is indeed impressive, but that is surely not the main reason why it has such powerful consequences for individuals and for society. Unravelling what those consequences are and establishing how we can provide evidence for them is at the heart of this project, and I'm greatly looking forward to leading it.

Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the AHRC, said:I find that while we might feel we instinctively understand the value of culture and its importance to our lives, defining and expressing that value is surprisingly difficult, let alone the challenge of persuading others of its importance. But it is vital for us all, and for the future, that we do. What this project will bring is therefore of the utmost importance. We look forward eagerly to its findings which will emerge from a mix of short and longer-term studies.

Notes for editors

  • For further information, please contact Philip Pothen on 01793 41 6022 or p.pothen@ahrc.ac.uk
  • Professor Geoffrey Crossick is about to step down as Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. His previous posts include Warden of Goldsmiths, Chief Executive of the Arts & Humanities Research Board, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Development) and Professor of History at the University of Essex. In addition to taking on this new role as Director of the Cultural Value Project, his activities in the cultural and higher education spheres include being a Trustee of the National Maritime Museum, a member of the Governing Board of The Courtauld Institute and the HEFCE Strategic Advisory Committee for Enterprise & Skills, and of the governing Council of AERES, the French body established to evaluate research and teaching programmes across French universities. He speaks nationally and internationally on the importance of the arts and humanities and on the creative economy. In 2006 he published an influential lecture, Knowledge transfer without widgets: the challenge of the creative economy. Professor Crossick is a social historian of 19th- and 20th-century Britain and continental Europe.
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - Each year the AHRC provides approximately £98 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities. In any one year, the AHRC makes hundreds of research awards ranging from individual fellowships to major collaborative projects as well as over 1,000 studentship awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.
Return to news list