Academic standards… falling behind NSS? @timeshighered

It seems that everyone knows someone who has worked in the food industry who delights in telling hygiene horror stories, followed by the dire warning: don’t eat such-and-such a brand’s burgers or biscuits. At least some of these tales appear to be more than urban myths and result in prosecutions, and public hygiene inspectors have become the stars of the small screen. So why don’t we seem to hear about the many horrendous human errors that must occur in our own higher education sector?

Here are four examples that I have witnessed in three different respected British higher education establishments.

The first must occur frequently. A member of staff loses a set of exam papers. No one owns up and, to cover for the error, average marks are returned based on students’ performance in other exams.

Second, and more extreme, a student fails their dissertation and is given a year to resubmit before they can graduate. Despite adding extra material over the year, the student is awarded a lower mark. When they appeal, their original mark is recalculated and it turns out that the student did in fact pass at the first attempt a year earlier. Does the university own up? Why of course not, it simply raises the mark of the second submission and the student graduates, oblivious to the fact that they have wasted an entire year

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In Defence of History (Richard Overy)

“Beset by the twin pressures of democratisation and ‘impact’, the study of the past faces an uncertain future. Richard Overy analyses the threats and offers hope that history will triumph

It is the year 2050. A bright young sixth-former is discussing her choice of university course with her grandmother. She is considering a degree in heritage studies.

“Is it really true that you did a course called history at uni?” she asks.

“Yes,” her grandmother replies. “It looked at bits of the past.”

“But what for?” asks her grandchild. “What was the point? Heritage studies is really useful. I want a job at a Heritage Trail agency when I’ve finished uni. History must have been so dead.”

Fantasy or the future? History today is at a crossroads; the debate about its “function”, its purpose, has sharpened. As an academic discipline it is under assault from two different, although related, directions.

On the one hand there is the “democratisation” of history – history as heritage, a commodity whose primary function is to entertain and inform. On the other there is governmental pressure to make history socially useful, contributing in visible ways to the gross national product while providing the taxpayer with some public display of its utility.”

Read the full story in the Times Higher Education, and also the Editorial ‘leader‘.


Being philosophical may be limited to ‘leisured’ classes

Post-1992s scrap courses as students avoid ‘non-vocational’ subject. Hannah Fearn reports

Philosophy is in danger of becoming the preserve of “leisured gentlemen” as post-1992 universities scrap courses because of dwindling student numbers.

Three new universities have decided to close philosophy courses in the past two years, while others have axed plans to introduce degrees in the subject.

The closures are significant as less than a third of new universities – just 19 out of 64 post-1992 institutions – ran undergraduate philosophy programmes last year.

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War in the Fields and Villages: The County War Agricultural Committees in England, 1939–45

  • Author: Brian Short
  • Date: October 2007
  • Source: Rural History / Volume 18 / Issue 02 / October 2007 pp 217-244

article button on computer keyboard keyState intervention in the United Kingdom’s farming industry was necessitated by the problems of the interwar depression and the lead up to World War Two and the emergency wartime food programme. This brought the need for greater bureaucratic machinery which would connect individual farmers and their communities with central government. Crucial from 1939 in this respect was the formation of the County War Agricultural Executive Committees, which became the channels through which English farming was propelled into postwar productivism. Using relatively newly-available documentary material, this article demonstrates the role the committees played in the transmission of national policies down to the local level, their composition and membership. In so doing it also places the economic changes within farming into the vital but under-researched context of their rural social relations during the Second World War.


War Tourisms: ‘Englishness’, Art and the First World War

  • Author: Sue Malvern
  • Date: June 2001
  • Source: Oxford Art Journal;2001, Vol. 24 Issue 1, p45

article button on computer keyboard keyThis article analyses how constructions of Englishness and landscape in the First World War and after were marked by a series of double displacements. British official war artists’ work was published as propaganda. In books such as The Western Front, northern France was judged against an ‘Englishness’ itself being renegotiated through its encounter with imagined German stereotype. After the war, a market for organized tours to the ‘Silent Cities’ of British war cemeteries on the actual battlefields developed while artists began anxiously to tour the English landscape searching for a lost completeness and identity as a poetic counterpart to a missing generation killed in the war. The land is often imagined as feminine in images of replenishment, nurture, and fertility, but I argue here that during and after the Great War, through ritualized encounters of war and peace, home and abroad, a complex gendering of ‘Englishness’ was worked out in landscapes, imagined both as female and male, and sometimes understood as literally composed of bodies.