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To overcome populism we must bridge the educational divide- Louise Richardson gives fifth annual Campaign for Social Science SAGE Publishing Lecture

November 28, 2017

Professor Louise Richardson FAcSS, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, told the Campaign for Social Science Annual SAGE Publishing Lecture on the 21st of November that we must bridge the educational divide to prevent populism from threatening democracy.

Bringing preeminent social scientists to the fore, this was the fifth lecture in the annual series highlighting the important role social science plays in addressing key societal issues from education and government policy, to the ever increasing role of technology. 

Speaking before an audience of policymakers, journalists and academics in Whitehall, Richardson’s lecture entitled Educational Inequality in a Populist Era, charted the rise of the anti-intellectualism wave in the UK, and identified the risks to democracy caused by persistent inequality and gaps in educational attainment.

“The scale of educational inequalities in this country is an issue of such import that we should be concentrating all the methods of our discipline in attempting an understanding of the scale, causes, and identifying evidence-based polices that might serve to mitigate the problem. […] Social scientists must become fierce and objective guardians of knowledge. We must not be shy about challenging falsehood coming from any direction”.

The Rt Hon Lord David Willetts, Executive Chair of the Resolution Foundation, followed Richardson’s speech by analysing the social, cultural, and economic trends that have contributed to the rise in populism, and interrogated what part universities have and will play in this changing landscape.

The event was introduced by the Campaign’s new chair, Professor Shamit Saggar CBE FAcSS, and Ziyad Marar, President of Global Publishing at SAGE Publishing.

In his remarks, Marar said SAGE was “obsessed with social science”, and spoke about our future focus around the rise of big data, new technology and the transformations of “our culture and our polity in profound ways”. He added that one of the most important ways to champion social science is through events such as the Annual Lecture, showcasing social science at an exceptional standard.

Last year’s was delivered by Professor Beth Noveck, Director of The Governance Lab. Sharon Witherspoon, former Nuffield Foundation Director and current Head of Policy at the Campaign and its parent organisation, the Academy of Social Sciences, delivered the 2015 lecture. Former LSE Director Craig Calhoun delivered the 2014 lecture, while the inaugural lecture in 2013 was given by David Willetts, the then Universities and Science Minister.

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