Thursday, February 18, 2021

History of the future of academic history programs

Notes and portents about the future of history teaching and of universities themselves seem to be everywhere these days.

At Active History, Jeremy Milloy writes about precarious employment for historians in Canadian universities under the ominous title "I Think It's Time For Us To Give Up."

In the face of reports that enrolments in history programs have been declining faster than in any other of the major disciplines, an op-ed at History News Network argues that what is required is a "New Deal" to provide employment for historians if the universities cannot or will not.

Meanwhile looking beyond history programs in isolation, John Naughton, in The Guardian, writes about an article published way back in 1995 predicting that

while new technologies were likely to strengthen research, “they will also weaken the traditional major institutions of learning, the universities. Instead of prospering with the new tools, many of the traditional functions of universities will be superseded, their financial base eroded, their technology replaced and their role in intellectual inquiry reduced. This is not a cheerful scenario for higher education.”

Naughton, who began teaching online through Britain's Open University decades before Covid and Zoom, observes that universities have remained largely oblivious to this issue, and budget on the assumption that they can continue to charge students and taxpayers large amounts for credentials that can be cheaply and efficiently earned elsewhere.

And to the sound of people all over the country saying, "What, universities can go bankrupt?" Laurentian University in Sudbury declared itself insolvent and sought protection from its creditors.

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