History at the University of Strathclyde: Richard Finlay Introduces History at One of Scotland's Most Popular Universities

Article excerpt

The University

The University of Strathclyde dates its foundation to 1796 when a disgruntled Glasgow University professor, John Anderson, left a legacy in his will to found a 'place of useful learning'. He clearly thought that his previous employer was not one. Established as Anderson's University in the nineteenth century, it transformed into the Royal College of Technology and in 1964 it became the University of Strathdyde. Among its most famous alumni are David Livingstone, the African explorer, and John Logie Baird, inventor of the Television. The University is located in the city centre of Glasgow and, with some 18,000 students, it is the third largest in Scotland. In a recent poll of first year students, Strathclyde was voted as the best place to study.

Strathclyde University has a range of excellent student facilities. As well as the usual sports centre, students' union and halls of residence, the university takes particular pride in the quality of education it provides. Strathclyde students have access to a wide range of technological facilities and a recent initiative will provide every student with their own personal development profile in order to increase their employability.

The Department of History at Strathclyde currently has eighteen members of staff whose expertise ranges chronologically from the late middle ages to the present day, and geographically from the United States to Japan.

Studying History at Strathclyde

As is the tradition in Scotland (and Europe for that matter), an honours degree takes four years. Students who want to study history at Strathclyde apply to the Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences (LASS) and entry is to the Faculty, not to the department. Once admitted to the Faculty, students take five subjects, two of which are their first and second principal subjects.

The idea behind this is to provide students with a more rounded introduction to university study and allow them the opportunity to try different subjects. It also means that should a student find that his or her principal subjects are not quite what they expected, then they can be changed to one or other of the three subjects without it effecting their progress. One consequence of the five subject first year, and the student's ability to change track in the second year, is that it induces a healthy competition between the departments in the faculty as all strive to win over converts.

The first year class is 'The British Isles Since 1700'. This course is designed to introduce students to the basic tools of the historical trade and is designed in such a way that a student who has not studied history at school is able to take it. In this class, the British Isles are used as a 'historical laboratory' to discuss the key themes that have shaped the modern world. The enlightenment, industrialisation, imperialism, the development of class, gender relations, the growth of the modern state, global war and other key issues are studied to show that the development of British society was not unique and that comparisons with other societies are a useful tool for the historian. The class also focuses on the promotion of study techniques, skills in writing essays and critical commentaries. As with other first year courses at Strathclyde, much use is made of the web as a learning resource. …