When did the Big Society turn into Big Brother?

A column by Tom Sutcliffe in today’s Independent addresses the question of academic freedom posed by reports that the Arts and Humanities Research Council will require academics seeking research funds to study the Big Society as a priority.

The AHRC denies that it has been subject to government pressure, and insists that it remains independent. But academics are concerned about the control of research and the perceived threat to intellectual freedom. Tom Sutcliffe suggests it’s the next step on from impact statements, which he describes as “a witless and time-wasting obligation introduced by a Labour government”.

What’s your view: is academic freedom really under threat here? Will pressure (whether explicit or implicit) to study a government priority distort the research agenda? And does anyone want to study the Big Society?

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