BISA trustees are frequently approached with requests to lobby or campaign on a range of issues of interest to members. As a UK Charity, BISA and its working groups are governed by the Charity Commission and must comply with key legal requirements and with Charity Commission guidance when it comes to political campaigning and lobbying. Specifically, there is a legal requirement on charities to ensure that any political campaigning must only be undertaken in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purposes. Trustees must ensure that the charity is not used for the expression of the political views (whether personal or party political) of any individual trustee or staff member. Trustees must also consider the impact of the proposed campaigning on the charity’s reputation, ensuring that the charity’s independence is maintained. For more information on what is permitted by the Charity Commission, see Campaigning and political activity guidance for charities.
BISA’s charitable aims are set out on our 'About' page. To summarise, BISA aims to represent and support the scholarly community of academics, students and others working in International Studies and related disciplines - all of whose work contributes to the discipline - by furthering research, knowledge exchange, professional development, and learning and teaching.
In line with BISA’s charitable aims, BISA can and will campaign on matters of policy that directly impact on research and teaching in the field of International Studies, and BISA regularly makes representation in relation to government policy on, for example, research funding, the Research Excellence Framework, and the Teaching Excellence Framework. BISA seeks to ensure that the importance of International Studies as a discipline is well-articulated and defended, as part of wider campaigning in defence of the social sciences. BISA also campaigns where international studies scholars might face serious threats to their safety, for example, if they are targeted by hostile actors when undertaking research in the field.
BISA has to walk a very cautious line on political matters beyond the scope of its stated charitable mission. For example, when an international political crisis emerges, BISA cannot assume that all of its members will be of one voice, and therefore, campaigning would both be outside of BISA’s primary purposes, but may also alienate members of the BISA community, and would therefore undermine our reputation and independence. Similarly, where members may be involved in industrial relations disputes, whether local or national, BISA cannot assume that all of its members are either implicated or united, and must, therefore, maintain a neutral position. BISA’s working groups must also comply with these expectations.
As trustees, we welcome suggestions for matters about which BISA might usefully campaign, provided that these are directly related to BISA’s charitable aims, and do not put our reputation and independence at risk.
Professor Ruth Blakeley (BISA Chair) and Professor Kyle Grayson (BISA Vice-Chair)
Last updated: 18 October 2021