History UK stands in solidarity with all historians working in higher education and calls for recognition of the important work undertaken in History departments across the sector. More so now than ever. The implications of recent government decisions on this year’s A-Level examinations results are divisive and yet to be fully understood. The coming months are likely to be uncertain and stressful for many of us as we strive to support new students as they transition to university-level study, and help all students manage a new learning experience.
We support the Royal Historical Society’s message to students to explore the full range of History programmes, and their recognition that there are first-rate degree programmes and highly satisfied students across the sector. We recognise, however, that the implications of recent government decisions, particularly the lifting of the cap on university places in England, is a cause of considerable anxiety for many historians and History departments.
Historians across different types of institution have long raised concerns about unmanageable and unsustainable workloads. Many now fear that additional student numbers at some universities, combined with cuts to precariously employed staff and the additional demands of online and physically distanced teaching, will lead to significantly increased workloads. The burden of this additional labour may fall disproportionately on junior, female, and BAME colleagues. Those who have already lost their jobs may not necessarily be re-employed. There are historians in departments across the sector who are committed to their students, who will welcome new starters and go above and beyond to ensure they have the best experience possible. But this is potentially accompanied by a substantial cost for individual physical and mental health.
History UK is most concerned by fears among historians for their jobs and the sustainability of post-1992 universities in particular. These fears are compounded by broader attempts to dismiss the value of History in the national media and among certain think tanks. Yet, as we wrote earlier this year following the decision of the University of Sunderland to close programmes in History, the study of history has never been more important for the health of our civic culture and sense of national self-understanding. Historians across all kinds of institution not only inspire students, broaden horizons, and shape highly employable graduates, but also produce world-leading research, much of which is rooted in engagement with local communities.
It is essential that historians challenge these narratives and call for History—indeed all Humanities subjects—to be protected in any government bailout or support package. We may not all be affected equally, but the diversity and inclusivity of the discipline as a whole will suffer if we do not stand together.
History UK co-convenors (Yolana Pringle, Lucie Matthews-Jones, Jamie Wood)
19 August 2020