IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 1701: Medieval Studies within Higher Education – Where Do We Go From Here?

Thursday 14 July 2005, 14.00-16.30

Sponsor:Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds
Organiser:Axel E. W. Müller, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds
Moderator/Chair:David Bates, School of History, University of East Anglia / Université de Caen Basse-Normandie

This session aims to define the role of medieval studies within British Higher Education, to examine its perception in society as a whole, and to consider prospects for the future.

The Study of the past has been pivotal to British Higher Education since its inception. Study of the European Middle Ages has featured in the research and teaching of most universities at least since the 19th century, although until the last few decades this was usually undertaken within traditional disciplinary boundaries rather than on the interdisciplinary basis that has since become fashionable. More recently still, however, some have described the role of Medieval Studies within a university’s curriculum as ‘ornamental’.

The IMS is conducting a survey of Medieval Studies in British Higher Education, and will present its results during the round table. The consensus appears to be that the number of medievalists in departments of History, English Language and Literature, Latin and Modern Languages, Theology, Philosophy, Archaeology, Art History is on the decrease. If such a trend is confirmed, its result will be loss of knowledge and deskilling.

The discussion will address these issues and questions:

• Does a 21st century education system need medieval studies? Would society be any the worse off (or better) without it?

• Has the function of medievalists within universities become merely ornamental? Are problems caused by pejorative associations of words like “medieval” and “Middle Ages”?

• How can medievalists’ skills be brought to bear on projects that benefit the wider public? (for example, in archaeology, music, art; training for younger people; lifelong learning, the understanding of technologies). Or do medievalists’ attempts to find modern functionalist justifications amount to a retreat from the principle that scholarship has inherent cultural benefit? Might the invocation of direct benefits actually be counter-productive?

• What roles and functions do Medieval Studies fulfil? What is the future for medieval studies as a teaching and research segment within Higher Education?

Participants with experience of different branches of HE and Medieval Studies will be invited to reflect on such questions, followed by contributions from and debate with members of the audience. Participants will include David Bates (Director of the Institute of Historical Research, University of London), Colin Brooks (Co-ordinator, History, Classics & Archaeology Subject Centre, UK Higher Education Academy), Nick Harris (Director for Development and Enhancement, Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education), Janet L. Nelson (former President of the Royal Historical Society and Professor of Medieval History, King’s College, University of London), Richard Rastall (Professor for Historical Musicology, University of Leeds) and Greg Walker (Professor of Early-Modern English Literature and Culture, University of Leicester).