Leader: History shows schools cast a long shadow

July 11, 2003

The first of our new series of subject focuses, on history, tells a story that is likely to be repeated in many other areas. As high-prestige universities expand provision, former polytechnics struggle to fill their places. If this is the plight of departments in a subject popular with students, what does the future hold where overall demand is waning? In science and technology, we now know that 79 departments have closed in ten years and more are threatened.

To some extent, higher education is at the mercy of developments at school level. Science departments cannot attract students who opt out of the relevant subjects in the sixth form or before. Even history is not immune - provision is skewed by the desire of students to stick with the safe ground of 20th-century events, which dominate the teenage curriculum.

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