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The Future of the Humanities

November 3, 2018
History UK

Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU
United Kingdom

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In recent years there has been a global conversation about the future of the humanities. Partly this has been in response to the rapidly changing education environment, the impact of budget cuts and calls for short-term accountability; partly it is a response to technological advances, and particularly digitisation, which are effecting change and transformation in the way society views, reads and understands culture and the humanities.

In Britain, recent government policies have increasingly undermined the role that the humanities play in both schools and universities. Changes in school curricula have marginalised humanities subjects; in 2015, direct funding to the humanities was cut; fees for undergraduate degrees have increased, with around 76% of all institutions charging the full amount from 2015, and increasingly marketisation has prevailed. Most recently, political and media commentary about career outcomes and graduate salaries have brought new challenges for the arts, humanities and social sciences.

How have the humanities responded? Public intellectuals such as Marina Warner, Sarah Churchill and Stefan Collini have been outspoken in their responses to the attack on the humanities, the role of universities and the role played by academics. A number of historians, including Professor Peter Mandler, were asked to assess the state of history, in the context of institutional, social and political challenges, for the Times Higher Education earlier this year.

This event will draw together invited speakers to consider the attack on humanities, the defence of the humanities, and to consider ways of looking to the future of the humanities in a positive way.

Our first speaker is Stefan Collini, Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at the University of Cambridge. Professor Collini has written extensively on the role of the humanities and in 2012 published the polemical, What are Universities For? He will be giving a paper entitled ‘In the valley of its saying: on not “justifying” the humanities’

Our second speaker Dr. Karen Salt, is an interdisciplinary scholar in the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies at the University of Nottingham, and Director of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights. Dr. Salt has commented widely on race and politics, with a particular emphasis on improving diversity in arts and
humanities research.

Our final session will be a roundtable involving three younger scholars who are keen to reflect on the future of the humanities. The speakers will outline their position papers in 10 minutes. There will then be 20 minutes to discuss their papers. Our speakers will be

  • Dr. Sara Barker (Leeds), ‘Thinking about the Past for the Future – students and the study of history’
  • Dr. James Baker (Sussex), ‘Born Digital Archives’
  • Sihong Lin (Manchester), 'Diversifying Public History: A Medievalist's Perspective'

History UK represents history departments (and their equivalents) in higher education institutions across the United Kingdom, and our annual plenary provides an opportunity for our members to hear from key individuals and groups about major issues impacting on our discipline. We invite all participants to join in the AGM.

All subscribing departments have one ticket included in the cost of their annual subscription. If you intend to come to this meeting as a representative of your department, please email Sue Davidson (sue.davison@sas.ac.uk) with your name and affiliation to confirm your place.

This event is open to additional scholars interested in the future of the humanities.

Cost for registration will be:

  • £40 for all participants from non-subscribing departments
  • £15 for PhD and ECR colleagues and for additional representation from subscribing members.

If you have any questions or queries please email Lucinda Matthews-Jones at l.m.matthew-jones@ljmu.ac.uk

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November 2, 2018, 9:00am BST

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