Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE


Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE


Article excerpt

Rick Rylance is chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and chair of the Research Councils UK executive group. He has held several positions at UK universities including the University of Exeter and Anglia Polytechnic University (now Anglia Ruskin University). In the autumn, he will move to the School of Advanced Study, University of London to take up the directorship of the Institute of English Studies

Where and when were you born?

Manchester, 1954.

How has this shaped you?

In a lifelong obsession with Manchester City Football Club and a fondness for moorland landscapes. My dad took me to see City when I was seven; we lost 2-1 to Fulham. It's been down and up ever since.

How does it feel to be returning to an academic institution? Do you think it'll be a bit like getting back on a bike?

I like to think I never fell off, actually - but hanging around in Whitehall does funny things to you. It feels great to be going

to the IES and SAS, but it's not so much a return as a rediscovery. It's always much better when things have changed and you've had a different life for a while.

Will you be looking to flex your own research muscles now that you're no longer part of a body that funds research?

Actually, I've done a bit of flexing already. I've just finished a book for Oxford University Press on literature and the public good. I enjoyed writing that so much, in the nooks and crannies of my ordinary week, that I want to write more.

How does UK universities' research compare with that of other key players in global higher education, and could we be doing more to improve our reputation?

With characteristic national reticence, we underestimate how considerable our international reputation is. I sit on several international bodies and our standing is impressive. We have our weaknesses, as all do, among them underinvestment by comparison with competitor nations. But we are widely considered by many to be thought leaders in policy, good at know-how, and collaborators of choice. We are just blooming good at this research stuff.

Specifically, where does the UK - given its quite heavy emphasis on STEM - sit in global arts and humanities research?

I get rather tired of this adversarial juxtaposition of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the arts and humanities as if one were Goliath and the other David looking for a showdown. …

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