ACADEMICS have quit their role on a research board in protest over the UK Government's foreign aid cuts.

In a joint letter, the five women said they leave as co-chairs at the Arts and Humanities Research Council Strategic Advisory Board (International) with "deep regret and considerable dismay".

The letter was signed by Alison Phipps, Jo Beall, Olivette Otele, Zoe Norridge and Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, who have held the job for three years.

The UK Government claim reducing aid spending to 0.5% is legitimate because of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic – which the legislation provides for – although it would not allow for it to become a permanent cut.

The UK has already announced it will give Yemen about £87m in aid this year, down from £164m in 2020, and leaked reports have suggested there are likely to be substantial cuts to other war-torn areas including cuts to Somalia by 60% and to South Sudan by 59%. The planned cut for Syria is reported at 67% and for Libya it is 63%.

READ MORE: There will be consequences to Westminster's savage foreign aid cuts

In a joint letter, the academics said UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK, was told by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy not to communicate with the academics.

The letter read: "The meeting requested [with UKRI] was repeatedly rescheduled.

"We can now infer that this was due to the instruction received by UKRI from BEIS that no communication with any stakeholders could be forthcoming from UKRI staff. That this instruction also included UKRI's own advisory bodies on the very matters at stake is unfathomable to us.

"We also believe it to be an inexcusable breach of governance. In short, these actions have rendered the Strategic Advisory Board AHRC International defunct."

It continued: "We cannot be associated with or placed in a position of responsibility for a decision by the UK Government, implemented by UKRI in this manner, which shows such flagrant disregard for all the work our Principal Investigators are required to undertake on safeguarding, risk assessments, gender equity statements, fiduciary risk, log frames, and financial due diligence.

"The fallout of this decision for our partners, as our Arts and Humanities research has repeatedly shown, will have serious and deleterious consequences.

"The UK is poorer for its decision to cut ODA [Overseas Development Aid], even if the reasons for it may be understandable.

"There is no excuse, however, for the draconian and misguided manner of the cut to UKRI ODA funds or for the fact that it has been done without due process and the use of the advisory and governing means at its disposal."