Historians split on their home base

April 30, 1999

Historians bidding for a new subject centre are struggling to unite all sections of their discipline.

With a month to go before bids have to be in for the Pounds 30 million funding councils' scheme to encourage innovative teaching, some subjects are still wrangling over where the centres should be based and which teaching methods they should promote.

The funding councils will not support any subject centre without the support of all the subject associations involved.

Particularly badly hit is history, which is to share a subject centre with archaeology and classics and will receive some Pounds 240,000 a year.

The History at the Universities Defence Group favours a centre based at the Institute of Historical Research, but classicists and archaeologists are cautious about the historical focus and prefer a distributed centre with experts in departments around the country.

Historians themselves are divided over whether the centre should concentrate on use of technology or generic methods of teaching and learning.

Other frontrunners for the centre are the Computers in Teaching Initiative for History, Archaeology and Art History in Glasgow, History 2000 and Leicester University, which may put in a joint bid with another organisation.

Negotiations are continuing with the prospect that rival bids will be submitted.

Anthony Fletcher, convenor of HUDG, said: "The Institute of Historical Research has great respect from the profession and is seen as being above the fragmentation in departments."

But Christopher Rowe, chairman of the Council of University Classical Departments, said: "It is quite important that people don't think the institute is the only bid. We want to use existing expertise for solving the problems."

He said classicists and archaelogists wanted a centre that could spend money on project work to assess such issues as fieldwork and language teaching.

Clive Gamble, vice-chairman of the Standing Conferences of University Professors and Heads of Archaeology Departments, said archaeology had different needs because it was funded on a higher teaching band. He was disappointed the subject centre did not include archaeology in the title.

Geography, which is submitting a bid for a centre shared with environmental sciences and earth sciences, has fewer problems.

A Royal Geographical Society spokesman said it was well on the way to producing a final draft for a multidisciplinary centre based in an institution or institutions, but he refused to say where.

In architecture, bids are expected for centres from the universities of Cardiff and Sheffield, but no final decisions have been made. Two undisclosed bidders have also approached the Council for College and University English for support in a bid for an English subject centre.

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