Financing for college humanities programs has fallen steady in
the United States since 2009, echoing a trend across the globe.
In the global marketplace of higher education, the humanities are
increasingly threatened by decreased funding and political attacks.
Financing for humanities research in the United States has fallen
steadily since 2009, and in 2011 was less than half of 1 percent of
the amount dedicated to science and engineering research and
development. This trend is echoed globally: According to a report in
Research Trends magazine, by Gali Halevi and Judit Bar-Ilan,
international arts and humanities funding has been in constant
decline since 2009.
Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the Modern Language
Association of America, says the decline in funding for humanities
research in the United States is related both to fiscal emergencies
and "the devaluing of the humanities, especially by legislators who
themselves have not experienced firsthand the value of studying the
Last year, a task force convened by Gov. Rick Scott of Florida
recommended that students majoring in liberal arts and social
science subjects should pay higher tuition fees, arguing they were
"nonstrategic disciplines." Reacting against that, an online
petition, which more than 2,000 people signed, warned that the
differential tuition model would lead "to a decimation of the
liberal arts in Florida."
In March this year, an amendment submitted by Senator Tom Coburn,
a Republican from Oklahoma, passed the Senate, limiting the use of
National Science Foundation funds for political science research,
unless that research promotes "national security or the economic
interests of the United States."
This kind of political interference is echoed elsewhere. This
year in Australia, Tony Abbott, the newly elected prime minister,
promised to "reprioritize" 103 million Australian dollars, or $93.6
million, from research in the humanities into medical research. In a
statement, Mr. Abbott's coalition government singled out four
examples of "increasingly ridiculous" research grants including "The
God of Hegel's Post-Kantian Idealism," and an "Investigation of
Sexuality in Islamic Interpretations of Reproductive Health
Technologies in Egypt."
Associate Prof. Robert Phiddian, director of the Australasian
Consortium of Humanities Research Centers, said that even before Mr.
Abbott took office, humanities funding in Australia was in decline.
"Humanities departments have seen less and less funding per student
for as long as I can remember," he said in an email.
In Britain, at an undergraduate level, government funding for
humanities teaching has been pulled. "From 2011, direct government
funding for humanities provision has been withdrawn entirely, and
replaced by tuition fees, backed up by government loans," said Robin
Jackson, chief executive of the British Academy for the Humanities
and Social Sciences. "The move has been highly controversial: some
have seen it as an expression of lack of respect for the value of
"Postgraduate study is now seen as a sensitive area, where
enrollments might be depressed by students with debt from
undergraduate study," Dr. Jackson said. "There is almost no
government funding for masters-level programs in the humanities,
although leading universities are shifting towards providing Ph.D.
According to Prof. Homi K. Bhabha, director of the Mahindra
Humanities Center at Harvard University, "the humanities are facing
serious challenges in both developed and developing countries. …