Despite colleagues' support, cuts cause deep traumas

Academics rally to defend 'inspiring' historian who faces possible redundancy. Matthew Reisz reports

January 21, 2010

The human cost of the cuts that are sweeping through the sector has been highlighted by the case of an acclaimed historian facing the axe at the University of Sussex.

Fellow academics have rallied to the defence of Naomi Tadmor, whose plight has been used to highlight the "traumatic" impact of redundancies, both personal and professional.

Malcolm Gaskill, reader in early modern history at the University of East Anglia, said she was a "top-drawer" historian who had produced "highly significant and original work that has influenced people in many different areas".

"In her case, the proposed changes are especially traumatic as she is a single mother looking after two young children, and left a permanent college lectureship at Cambridge in 2003 for a university that was inviting people to 'join the future at Sussex'," he said.

Dr Tadmor, a senior lecturer, is believed to have been informed of the proposed redundancy by telephone while in Israel following the death of her mother.

Dr Gaskill added that he feared her department would "wither" if proposed changes to the curriculum go ahead. The changes are coupled with a wider plan to cut 115 jobs.

Universities across the sector have been cutting back as their financial situation worsens - a process accelerated by the additional budget reductions announced in the recent grant letter.

Martin Daunton, master of Trinity Hall and professor of economic history at the University of Cambridge, said Dr Tadmor was "a very significant scholar" in her field.

Yet she is facing redundancy because of Sussex's plan to drop research and research-led teaching in English social history before 1700 and European history before 1900.

Recent books by Dr Tadmor include Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England (2001) and a forthcoming study titled The Social Universe of the English Bible. As these are largely works of intellectual and post-1700 British history, Professor Daunton suggested that she had been "miscategorised" even by Sussex's own criteria.

Nikolas Funke, a DPhil student at Sussex, said that "ending expert teaching and research in continental European history pre-1900 is downright absurd".

"The result will be that students get a negligently reductive, dangerously simplistic view of history. You don't have to go to university for that, just turn on the telly," he said. He was also quick to praise Dr Tadmor, saying she was "a highly inspiring and passionate teacher and supervisor".

Sussex's plans were also questioned by Mark Goldie, reader in British intellectual history at Cambridge, who said that a "decent history syllabus cannot be so present-centred".

"As an alumnus of Sussex whose career would not have been possible without the teaching (in early modern history) I had there, I am particularly saddened," he added.

"Someone such as Dr Tadmor with two outstanding books from Cambridge University Press would be heading towards a chair in many universities, not towards redundancy."

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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