Revised QAA Subject Benchmark Statement for History published

17 December 2014

Arthur Burns writes:

On 15 December the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) announced the publication of a revised version of the Subject Benchmark Statement for History, now available on the QAA website.

This document is the outcome of the latest in a regular cycle of revisions of the original subject benchmark statement published in 2000, which has been highly valued by the subject community as a source of guidance for the creation and revision for History degree programmes in the UK. I described the workings of the most recent revision process in an article in the RHS newsletter in May 2014, at which time the document was about to go out to public consultation. As chairs of the revising committee, Professor Jane Longmore and I led the consideration of the responses we received, which came from a variety of HE institutions and stakeholders, and which enabled us to make a small number of minor but helpful clarifications and amendments in the final version which has now been published.

The responses to the consultation confirmed us in our view that the document retains the confidence of the subject community and required only minor changes to bring it up to date and enable it to continue to support colleagues creating new degree programmes, not least in helping them articulate relevant “learning outcomes”, as well as offering institutions a way of evaluating the way they deliver teaching in our discipline against agreed general expectations about standards and the subject. Those familiar with earlier versions will find the overall shape and approach of the document largely unaltered, but it is worth highlighting here what is new or altered since the last revision in 2007. The benchmark acknowledges technological developments in e-learning and the need for digital literacy in history students, as well as the ongoing importance of the employability agenda in stressing the transferability of historical knowledge and core skills to a wide variety of sectors beyond the academy. It also reflects important recent legislation on equality and diversity. In terms of the approach to our discipline, it offers greater clarity and emphasis on the intrinsic value of independent study within history degree programmes and the centrality of the notion of historical enquiry. Finally, it stresses the need to take account of the ethical dimensions of historical practice, reflecting the increased importance of institutional codes of conduct which can be of particular significance for students conducting independent research on the recent past.

[The QAA benchmark review panel consisted of Prof Arthur Burns (RHS/KCL), Prof Jane Longmore (Southampton Solent, History Forum HEA) cochairs; Prof Alan Booth (Nottingham), Dr Arthur Chapman (Institute of Education), Dr Marcus Collins (Loughborough), Dr Paul Corthorn (Queens Belfast), Dr Pat Cullum (Huddersfield), Peter D’Sena (HEA); Prof Jackie Eales (Canterbury Christ Church, Historical Association), Dr Elaine Fulton (Birmingham), Dr Vicky Gunn (Glasgow), Dr Melinda Haughton (TNA), Dr Leif Jerram (Manchester), Dr Valerie Johnson (TNA), Dr Keith McLay (Chester, History UK), Dr Alison Twells (Sheffield Hallam), Dr Jamie Wood (Lincoln), Dr Dave Wyatt (Cardiff).]

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