SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts for People and the Economy)
In the third discussion of our series What really matters, we focus on a new initiative that aims to promote and celebrate the social sciences, humanities and arts. SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts for People and the Economy) aims to emulate the influence and reputation held by STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – in secondary education and academic research.

The initiative, set up by the London School of Economics, the British Academy, Academy of Social Sciences and Arts Council England at the end of June 2020, seeks to reverse the declining value given to social sciences, humanities and arts subjects and level the playing field with STEM subjects by promoting the value of those subjects, including encouraging schoolchildren to choose SHAPE subjects at GCSE and A-level. There is a strong argument that the study of SHAPE subjects helps children to develop verbal reasoning and critical thinking skills and that these skills are currently undervalued. There is also a drive to incentivise undergraduates to pursue SHAPE subjects at university, and for decision makers to recognise the value of research in SHAPE subjects in allocations of grant funding.

In this discussion we will explore the following questions:

– What is SHAPE? What are the opportunities and challenges it poses?
– How does it relate to STEM? Competition or complement?
– How can we evaluate the worth of research in different disciplines? Is there a feasible ‘scorecard’ and, if so, what might it involve?
– How can SHAPE transform education and society in Britain?
– What are the wider global implications of SHAPE?


Julia Black, CBE FBA, Strategic Director of Innovation and Professor of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Alongside the President of the British Academy Prof David Cannadine, Julia has been the key mover in the campaign to set up and promote SHAPE.

Dane Comerford, PhD, Director of the IF Oxford: Science + Ideas Festival and former Head of Public Engagement at the University of Cambridge.

Paulina Kewes, FRHistS, Professor of English Literature and Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.

Katrin Kohl, Professor of German Literature, Jesus College Fellow and Tutor in German and Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded research project Creative Multilingualism.

Diarmaid MacCulloch, DD, FBA, FRHistS, FSA, Emeritus Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford and Vice-President for Communications and Engagement, British Academy.

Johanna Waters, Reader in Geography at UCL and Jesus College alumna.

This discussion has been organised by Patricia Daley, Vice-Principal and Professor of Geography, and Paulina Kewes, Professor of English, with the assistance of Dr Brittany Wellner James, Development Director, and Dr Matthew Williams, Access Fellow.

Join in

To watch and participate in the discussion, join us on Zoom by following the link below:

Meeting ID: 813 7134 3026

Password: 601345

If you’re unable to watch on the day, a video of the event will be available to view afterwards. Follow us on Twitter @JesusOxford for the link.
Date: 17 July 2020, 12:30 (Friday, 12th week, Trinity 2020)
Venue: Venue to be announced
Speakers: Dane Comerford, Professor Julia Black (London School of Economics and Political Science), Professor Paulina Kewes (Jesus College, Oxford), Professor Katrin Kohl (University of Oxford), Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch (University of Oxford), Dr Johanna Waters (UCL)
Organising department: Jesus College
Booking required?: Not required
Booking url:
Audience: Public
Editor: Sadie Slater