York PhD student’s research into ‘trans archeology’ called a ‘scam’ by conservative MP

Tory MP Nick Fletcher has called for a review of how taxpayer funds are used for higher education


Research into the “Transphobic Invocations of Archaeology” by a PhD student at the University of York has been called a “scam” by a Tory MP.

The student is being paid a stipend of around £18,622 a year by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Funded by the taxpayer, one Tory MP has called for a review of how taxpayer funds are used for higher education.

As reported by The Telegraph, student presented a paper earlier in the year titled “Bones Don’t Care About Your Feelings: Challenging Transphobic Invocations of Archaeology in (Social) Media”. a slide from the researcher’s presentation asked: “What if I told you that when an archaeologist finds human remains, it is a fact that there [sic] only two choices for gender identification.”

The slide featured branding from the University of York, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a governmental body which distributes research funds, and AHRC’s White Rose University Consortium, a doctoral training partnership between the Universities of Leeds, York, and Sheffield.

Tory MP, Nick Fletcher, referred to the student’s research as being a “Scam” and a waste of taxpayers money during a difficult financial period.

He said: “We need to call a scam a scam when we see it. This is taxpayers’ money, at a time when households are struggling – and the tax burden is at an all-time high.

He continued, calling for a review of UKRI and AHRC spending: “We should consider establishing a ‘Taxpayers’ Review Process’ to enable ordinary people to review and challenge UKRI and AHRC spending – similar to the process available for residents to review and challenge local authority accounts.”

Developmental biologist and co-founder of Sex Matters, Dr Emma Hilton, explained that such research would not reveal any new findings about gender identity throughout history: “Human remains cannot tell us anything about the unembodied ‘gender identity’ of a person. A female Viking warrior buried with male-typical war possessions tells us only that some women successfully broke through early glass ceilings.”

A UKRI spokesman said: “UKRI invests in a diverse research and innovation portfolio. Decisions to fund the research projects we support are made via a rigorous peer review process by relevant independent experts from across academia and business.

“The research councils also award block grants to Higher Education institutions to support PhD studentships. The institutions make decisions and allocate the funding to specific studentship proposals, following an application process.”

The University of York was approached for comment.

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