University History 1996

By Fitzgerald, Ian; Hingley, Vicki | History Today, August 1996 | Go to article overview

University History 1996


Fitzgerald, Ian, Hingley, Vicki, History Today


Amidst all the sweeping developments and inevitable controversies surrounding the reorganisation of Higher Education in recent years, the discipline of history has been changing too. This is an on-going process that is still generating much debate. This broad survey of what is happening in Britain's history departments aims to point out some of these developments and the debates surrounding them and to look at the state of university history today.

Surely, the most contentious issue in history departments currently is over the Higher Education Funding Council's Quality Assessment initiative. Last year departments were assessed on their research. This year, and much more controversially, teaching is the subject of the Teaching Quality Assessment (TQA) exercise.

It would have been a safe bet beforehand to have predicted that those who did well out of the assessments would have welcomed the initiative, while those who were not singled out for praise would have condemned it. But this was not the case. Quality Assessment is almost as unpopular with the 'winners' as it is with the 'losers', with the way assessment was carried out cited as a major cause of upset.

One main source of irritation was that, despite their preparatory work, many history departments were not even visited by assessors. For Arthur Marwick at the Open University the Quality Assessment exercise was a 'complete travesty'. He argues that 'the Quality Assessors didn't come near us, didn't read any of our stuff and 'just reached an a priori judgement that we couldn't be better than "satisfactory" '. One Teaching Committee chairman, who understandably wishes to remain anonymous, went so far as to describe the exercise as 'bloody useless'.

Where universities are visited by assessors, grades are awarded on the basis of exam and degree results. For an institution like the Open University this is bound to be problematic. It does not 'screen' its students like other universities do. As it takes on students of mixed ability its degree results necessarily reflect this. This objection was also raised by Susan Tegel of the University of Hertfordshire, who pointed out that, 'assessing the quality of teaching did not seem to take into account the academic background of the student being taught'.

This is true of many other universities: outside of Oxford and Cambridge and a handful of other institutions, most universities accept students with a fairly broad range of academic abilities. To assess departments purely on degree results seems to punish unfairly those universities who do not allow themselves the luxury of taking only the most gifted students.

A related factor, pointed out by Martyn Bennett of Nottingham Trent University, is that 'the resource problems faced by many of the former polytechnics placed them at a grave disadvantage'. Susan Tegel concurs: 'resourcing [was] outside the remit but is not unrelated to the quality of teaching'. She goes on to highlight a complaint made by several others: 'we were not visited, but still had to expend a great deal of time and effort' -- on gathering statistical and other information.

The University of Glasgow also experienced the unwanted burden of time spent preparing for the assessment. According to David Bates, head of the medieval history department, 'the amount of work preparing for the visitation is horrendous'. And although he ultimately found the exercise a worthwhile one, in that it focuses departments' minds on what they teach and how, he still finds some of the procedures 'particularly subjective and unsystematic' and objects to the labelling of departments in terms of 'excellent', 'Satisfactory' and so on.

Even departments that received a grading of 'excellent', such as Swansea University, have their reservations. Muriel Chamberlain, speaking on behalf of the department, says that, although her university came out of the assessment well, 'we could see many flaws in it'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

University History 1996
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.