Academic Boot Camp 2017

Simon Peplow is the new ECR representative on the History UK Steering Committee. His AHRC funded PhD was on the 1980/81 disturbances in England, examining the perception and role of public inquiries and local Defence Committees. He is currently Lecturer in History (Education and Scholarship) at the University of Exeter. Simon tweets as @simpep.


In May 2017, History UK ran the second instalment of their ‘academic boot camp’, which provided valuable interview experience for PhD students and Early Career Researchers (ECRs). A number of academics had kindly donated their Saturday so that around twenty of us, who had been shortlisted for an imaginary lectureship and subsequently travelled various distances to the Institute of Historical Research, could participate in and observe interviews and presentations, receiving detailed feedback and advice.

Charlotte Faucher detailed the first event of this type last year, including the range of questions she was asked, and some advice given on how to respond. My experience of this aspect of the workshop wasn’t hugely different, other than facing questions regarding how I might contribute an impact case study – emphasising the importance of effectively demonstrating the public significance of research. So, rather than simply repeating her thoughts, I will focus more on the presentation aspect – both of participants, and Dr Sara Wolfson’s ‘10 tips for getting an academic job’.

Participants were asked to produce a short presentation on ‘How Does your Research inform your Teaching Practices’? This type of question is standard for job interviews, inviting introductions to research, what applicants can offer in terms of teaching, and what form such teaching might take. Unfortunately, due to suffering from a cold, my own presentation could have gone better…but learning to adapt to things outside your control is itself an important lesson! Academics and other participants provided written feedback for each presentation, with recurrent themes appearing to be regarding structure, relation to the question posed, and ensuring that historians of other periods/topics can appreciate what is significant about your work.

After the traditional academic coffee break, interviews and presentations were followed by Sara Wolfson’s tips for securing an academic job, which included targeting conferences to increase your profile, obtaining funding to organise conferences/workshops, and the benefits (and potential risks!) of an active twitter profile. Having provided advice articles for jobs.ac.uk, Sara was also awarded the Times Higher Education’s ‘Most Innovative Teacher of the Year’ 2016, and her presentation included the importance of maintaining high-quality teaching; refreshing for those of us uncomfortable with advice obtained elsewhere essentially suggesting ‘putting the least amount of effort possible into teaching and focus on building your CV’. Whilst implementation of the Teaching Excellent Framework (TEF) has been at best controversial, universities should certainly consider teaching ability more so than they have in some previous cases.

Sara’s presentation was followed by discussions where other academics also provided suggestions and answered questions, and both sessions were extremely helpful. The main takeaway from these discussions was that there are many different pathways to obtaining jobs, both inside and outside of academia, and you must follow whichever you believe best. As Charlotte concluded about last year’s event, the knowledge that there are many different paths to success is indeed a reassuring reminder and key value of this workshop.

A subsequent pub trip and meal for those who could make it was only slightly ruined by my having to rush off mid-food to catch a train. This ‘networking’ (a word I personally hate) aspect was just as useful as the rest of the day in reminding that, whilst at times it may feel like you are the only one struggling with the difficulties of late/post-PhD life, this is most definitely not the case. Whilst we are conditioned to believe that ECRs are in constant competition for jobs, academia has been criticised for its tendency to ‘eat our young’ – and we shouldn’t be adding to that.

The value of this workshop has been echoed by those who attended it, variously described as ‘super useful’, ‘a great day’, and ‘very helpful’. It personally helped me to obtain a number of interviews this summer, as well as preparing me for what to expect when it came to actually arriving at various different university campuses on interview days!

Dion Georgiou described the value of the 2016 academic boot camp event.

Dion Georgiou described the value of the 2016 academic boot camp event.

 

The main training required by post-PhDs appears to be the ability to ‘hang on in there’. It is all too easy to be disheartened by a lack of success in job applications, particularly in the early days whilst often receiving the standard response that your application hasn’t been taken further and, ‘due to the high number of applications received’, no feedback will be provided. Ben Mechen recently explored the precarious nature of PGRs/ECRs, considering how such a position could affect the kinds of history we write. The lack of job security is one of the main reasons for more-than-qualified colleagues to move outside of academia, and will undoubtedly continue to be the case in a world where there are far too many excellent applicants for the jobs available.

For those determined to obtain an academic job; whilst it may appear to be a particularly bad time to be coming out of a PhD, it is important events such as this Boot Camp – and the confidence and relationships that can be obtained through attending – that, to continue the military theme, prepares PhDs/ECRs for the battles to come.

Strongroom to Seminar: archives and teaching in higher education

Jamie Wood, History UK’s Media Officer, took part in an event on using archives in teaching in HE at the National Archives at the end of February. Jamie, along with other participants in the event, has recently published a post on the TNA blog – follow this link if you’d like to know more.

HUK are hoping to develop further links with the TNA in future – so watch this space…!

Historians on Brexit

Universities face much uncertainty over the coming years because of Brexit. We want your help to spread information about how Brexit is affecting you!

Brexit EU pictureThe aim of this blog is not to take sides in debates about Brexit. Instead, we wish to present this as a platform where historians can exchange information about how Brexit is affecting us personally and professionally, as individuals and within our departments and universities more broadly. Groups like Scientists for EU have very successfully gained wider coverage about scientists’ views on Brexit. This means that much of the coverage and government interest in Brexit and Higher Education has focused on how these issues affect scientists. While we admire their success, we partly wish to provide an alternative voice, to remind politicians and the general public that Britain’s university sector is a diverse community.

This has inspired us at History UK to offer a platform for historians and History programmes throughout the UK to express their views. In order to do this, we need your help. All you have to do is send us a short email or tweet. This can be anecdotal evidence about your experiences or links to relevant research or articles. We want to know about how Brexit is affecting funding, travel, and future plans, both at an institutional level and at a personal level. We will use this blog and our Twitter feed to provide a forum for the exchange of such information (anonymously, if desired).

History UK will also draw on your evidence to inform our activities as we negotiate Brexit, the upcoming REF, the introduction of Teaching Excellence Framework, and a variety of other proposed changes to Higher Education in the UK.

This will help us present History experiences and views to the wider public and policy makers, ensuring these potentially seismic shifts in Higher Education recognise the importance of one of the most popular subjects in the UK.

Rachel Bright
11 April 2017

HEA Innovative Teaching Workshop in UG History

Higher Education Academy Innovative Teaching Workshop in Undergraduate History
Location: Canterburry Christ Church University
Date: Thursday, 27 April, 2017, 13:45
In November 2016, I was delighted to receive the Times Higher Education Most Innovative Teacher of the Year award for my delivery of early modern history courses at Canterbury Christ Church University. On 27 April, I am hosting a free Higher Education Academy fellow-led workshop to share some of the underpinning ideas behind my successful application. Although I am an early modern historian, the workshop is aimed at graduate teaching assistants, early career academics, teaching fellows and lecturers working in History and the Humanities more generally. 
 
Academics working in the UK Higher Educational sector today cannot avoid the national focus on teaching excellence, whether it is in relation to the Teaching Excellence Framework or discussions over the future of the National Student Survey. The afternoon will introduce delegates to some key innovations within my courses where I seek to challenge my students, as well as to address broader concerns surrounding graduate skills and holistic development. I will demonstrate how I have used online assessments; the workshop model to encourage shared learning; role-play and re-enactments to understand key historical events; and embedding of employability skills within assessment. 
 
Delegates attending the event will also hear from Professor Maureen Meikle, Leeds Trinity University, on the benefits of the workshop model for undergraduate history teaching. The afternoon will be interactive with a seminar reconstruction that uses Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library. The day will end with a ‘live’ student assessment, as delegates attend the launch of my second year student exhibition, Sex, Deviance and Death in Early Modern Britain. This event will be accompanied by a wine reception sponsored by Dr. Keith McLay, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
 
This free event is focused on assisting scholars who wish to explore different methods of teaching and assessment away from the traditional lecture model or essay assignment. People applying for Associate Fellowship, Fellowship or Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy may also find this workshop helpful, although seeking HEA fellowship status is not a requirement to attend.
 
If you would like to attend, please note that spaces are limited and booking is via https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/training-events/teaching-innovation-undergraduate-history
Please address any queries to sara.wolfson@canterbury.ac.uk
The exhibition flyer can be downloaded here: Sex, Deviance and Death in Early Modern England

I look forward to seeing you there,
Sara

History UK – Looking Forward

Heather Shore – Co-convenor of History UK

heathershoreIn the last few months History UK (HUK) has undergone a few changes and it is with these in mind that I write this post, as one of the new co-convenors, along with Lucie Matthews-Jones (Liverpool John Moores University), a long-time member of the HUK Steering Committee who stepped up to the co-convenor role in February. In the last few months we have said goodbye and thank-you to our previous co-convenors Marcus Collins and Kate Bradley, and we’ve extended our Executive. Along with the co-convenors, secretary (Daniel Grey) and treasurer (Richard Hawkins), we are very pleased to welcome our Media Officer (Jamie Wood) and Education Officer (Peter D’Sena).

In our last two blog posts, participants in the Academic Boot camp (held in May) and the New to Teaching event (held in September) wrote about their experiences and the benefits that they gained from attending these events. We hope that the events that we are currently planning will provide similar opportunities and benefits for historians, irrespective of whatever stages of their career they are at.

The first event will take place on the 22nd March at Liverpool John Moores University. HUK is very pleased to welcome the Digital History Lab Roadshow to a joint event between HUK and LJMU. We have a great line-up of speakers including, James Barker (Sussex), Bob Nicholson (Edge Hill), Claire Taylor (Liverpool) and Joanna Taylor (Lancaster) talking about their digital humanities projects. On the 20th May, we will be hosting our very successful Academic Boot Camp at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) again.

In the spring we will be collaborating with History Lab Plus on another event at the IHR, Life After PhD. History Lab Plus have run this successful event for the last few years, exploring the burning questions that postgraduates finishing their PhDs, and those who have recently completed, have in mind. In previous years the event has explored: the transition from PhD, getting grants, getting published and careers outside academia. Limited bursaries will be available for those travelling from outside the South-east (more information will be available soon). In September we will be collaborating with the IHR and the Royal Historical Society, to host the annual New to Teaching event, at the IHR, and aimed at recent graduates. Participants at this one-day event will develop their understanding of innovations in teaching and learning, curriculum design, assessment and feedback, quality assurance, teaching seminar groups, using digital technology in the undergraduate classroom and preparing for the academic job market.

History UK Steering Committee members will be participating in these events, and we very much look forward to a busy few months ahead, and to planning further events for the future. In particular, we are gearing up for our Autumn 2017 Plenary, which, this year, will focus on the theme of collaboration – in research, in funding, across disciplines and across the sector. Do please feel free to contact us if you want any information on any of these forthcoming events, or if there are other ways in which History UK might be involved in supporting historians in UK Higher Education.

Heather Shore (Leeds Beckett University)