History at Newman College of Higher Education: Ian Cawood Points out the Advantages of `Small and Friendly'. (University Challenge).(Birmingham, England)

By Cawood, Ian | History Review, September 2002 | Go to article overview
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History at Newman College of Higher Education: Ian Cawood Points out the Advantages of `Small and Friendly'. (University Challenge).(Birmingham, England)


Cawood, Ian, History Review


Newman College of Higher Education may not be one of the most famous institutions in the country, but here, on the outskirts of the vibrant city of Birmingham, with the historic counties of Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire close by, is an ideal place to study a wide range of history topics taught by expert tutors.

We put a great deal of emphasis on giving our students good academic support throughout the course. Some of our history tutors have recently taught AS/A2 level history and so are well aware of how to bridge the gap from sixth form to undergraduate level. Permanent staff lead all the modules and seminars, with no teaching done by research students or temporary lecturers. This means that, from the day you arrive at Newman, until graduation, you will be taught by staff whom you will know, whom you can always find and, most importantly, who will know you. At most, there are 45 people in a first year lecture, and, with options later, the class sizes soon fall. If you are nervous about studying history at undergraduate level; if you think you would need some support to get you through a degree; and if you would like to be more than just another face in a vast lecture theatre, then you ought to consider us.

History Courses

We run a modular course, which means that you study certain topics in depth for one or two terms, with assignments or papers at the end of each module. This means that you can concentrate on one topic at a time, rather than trying to carry all the information from your studies around in your head for two years. In history, where there is an awful lot of information to take in, the modular course makes life a lot easier!

We teach mainly British history in the first year, but two very different/ periods--from the Romans to the Norman Conquest and Victorian Society and Politics. BEd students also look at how to turn academic history into exciting lesson ideas and then try these out in school, while BA students investigate the methods and techniques of local history and apply these in a study of early industrial Birmingham. We get a bit more adventurous in the second year, looking at the making of the modern world, and then offering study options such as the European Reformation, the Greek and Roman worlds and European society in the 19th century. By the third year, we offer specialisms such as African history, cinematic history, the theory of history and twentieth century European history, while the BEd students work in schools again and then debate the nature and meaning of school history.

We have excellent resources in our newly extended library and resources centre. History has been taught here since the college opened in 1968 and we currently spend 121 [pounds sterling] per full-time student on resources. That means a lot of books, journals, resources and electronic media for every module, no matter how obscure! We even have our own archive in the Newman Room, with a large, fully catalogued collection of pamphlets, photos, maps, audio tapes, videos and documents on the history of the West Midlands, assembled by our local historian, Dr Chris Upton. But we're not just interested in the local area. We have a series of English residential field-trips, to Shropshire, Gloucestershire and Yorkshire, and we go to Italy every year. This year we're going to Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and Pisa in Tuscany; last year we enjoyed a late summer in Rome, finding time to pop over to Pompeii.

Teaching and learning are varied, with an emphasis on student involvement, group work and discussion.

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