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CAUT Bulletin Archives

June 2001

Winds of Change

SSHRC report released outlining the future of the humanities in Canada.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has released the report of a working group struck two years ago to recommend ways to strengthen humanities research and education in Canada.

At a news conference held during the 70th annual Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at Laval University, SSHRC president Marc Renaud called the report "both a wake-up call and a call to action."

"Researchers, universities and SSHRC must take a leading role in reestablishing humanities research and education as vital to the development of a knowledgeable and productive citizenry," Renaud said. "An understanding of history, philosophy, religions, languages, literature and the fine arts enriches our national culture, promotes a civil society and enhances not just the intellectual but also the economic wealth of all Canadians."

The eight-member working group was established in 1999 in response to growing concerns that governments and university administrators were ignoring the value of the humanities. The group was asked to identify current challenges and future trends for humanities research and to recommend ways to strengthen the field.

The report blames many of the problems now facing the humanities -- including a 13 per cent decline in the number of full-time faculty members since 1978 -- on years of cuts to university funding and to the budgets of the granting councils. The report recommends a significant reinvestment in humanities education and research.

"Half a century ago, the Massey Commission recommended providing new public funds to assist in nourishing Canada's cultural life," the report states. "Similarly, the working group recognizes the need for increased funding for humanities education and research."

The report urges university administrators to ensure that humanities receive a fair and proportional share of appointments in future hiring, and to revise university promotion and tenure criteria to acknowledge and reward the value of scholars' public and community work.

"We must reemphasize -- and promulgate widely -- the fact that humanities research and education are vitally important to developing and maintaining a knowledgeable and productive workforce and that they are central to the viability of national cultures, civil society and to the health of democratic institutions," the report concludes.

Renaud acknowledged the report means SSHRC will need to evaluate its own policies regarding how it currently provides support for the humanities.

"The policies of SSHRC will have to be reviewed," Renaud said. "We're taking this report to our council and we will have a serious discussion about what steps we need to take."

The Report of the Working Group on the Future of the Humanities is available online at