RHS News

Plan S Consultation

The Society has submitted a response to the consultation on the Plan S open-access initiative. Our outline response is available here, and our more detailed full report is available here. These build on our interim report and call for evidence and feedback, issued in January and available here.


Honorary Treasurer

Would you like to contribute to the future success of History in the UK? 

The Royal Historical Society is seeking to appoint a new Honorary Treasurer to succeed Professor Sarah Hamilton, who will demit office in November 2019. We expect to make this appointment by May 2019 so that the new Honorary Treasurer can shadow the current incumbent.

Skills required

An accountancy qualification is not necessary (the Society employs a full-time Executive Secretary who conducts day-to-day finances and works with the Honorary Secretary), but familiarity with reading spreadsheets is essential and you will need to be willing to learn to work with a cloud-based accounting system. You must also be a Fellow of the Society, since the role involves guiding the Trustees (the Members of Council).

Main tasks
The Honorary Treasurer:

  • Ensures the Society meets the statutory requirements for Charities, and keeps abreast of changes in regulation (through liaising with and being advised by the auditors about any changes in reporting requirements, reviewing the Charity Commission website for guidance, keeping abreast of the news, etc) and update Trustees about their responsibilities. This further includes:
    • Ensuring the Society meets the statutory requirements for employment of individuals (HMRC regulations, pensions changes etc, through liaising with and being advised by the auditors; working with the Executive Secretary who is updated on changes by HMRC etc);
    • Overseeing and liaising with the Executive Secretary and auditors on preparation for audit and production of annual financial accounts;
    • Drafting the Trustees’ Reports and the Finance Committee’s section of the annual report.
  • Acts as the Society’s main contact with our investment managers, supported by the co-opted members of Council and the President; reviews regular reports, setting of investment policies etc.
  • Takes the lead on financial planning, liaising with the Society’s Officers, Vice-Presidents and Presidents on an annual basis to draft a 3–year financial plan for approval each year. This includes:
    • Monitoring spending against in-year plan, with the support of the Executive Secretary;
    • Liaising with the President, Officers and Chairs of sub-committees and the Executive Secretary around major in-year expenditure.
  • Works closely with the Executive Secretary, who has all day-to-day responsibility for book-keeping, using the cloud-based accounting system, Xero.

Time commitment:
Most of the tasks can be done remotely, but the Honorary Treasurer attends all Council meetings, the Finance Committee and other sub-committees ex officio. These are held at the Society’s rooms in University College London on Fridays (five annual meetings in February, May, July, September and November). The role also involves one day in June to prepare for audit and at least one full-day elsewhere in the year to liaise with the auditors or investment managers, with the President and with the Executive Secretary who is based in the London Office.   Further meetings may be necessary. All travel expenses are covered by the Society.

The Society is committed to equality for all and welcomes enquiries from Fellows anywhere in the UK and of whatever academic standing.

If you might be interested, please contact Vice-President Professor Frances Andrews (fea [at] st-andrews.ac.uk) in the first instance. All enquiries to be received by 31 January 2019 latest.


Media Coverage of Race Report

Our report on race and ethnicity in UK History has generated significant media coverage and a very positive reaction across the Higher Education sector. You can find some of the media coverage below:

Times Higher Education: “Royal Historical Society report warns dynamism of discipline risks being stifled by lack of diversity” 

The Observer: David Olusoga, “We risk losing slices of our past if we don’t root out racism from our universities”

The Independent: “1 in 3 university historians from ethnic minorities faces discrimination”

WonkHE: Jonathan Saha, “Why is History in the UK so white?”

The Times: “History is too white, claim academics”

The Times: Michael Burleigh, “Undergraduate History teaching is pale and stale”



REF2014 History Sub-panel Report

In advance of the REF2021 process, the Royal Historical Society wishes to highlight the REF2014 History Sub-panel report to historians and departments. The report can be viewed and downloaded here.


REF2021 Draft Guidance & Criteria Consultation

Via REF2021:

“The UK’s four higher education funding bodies have published the draft guidance and criteria on making submissions to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, for consultation.

The four bodies – the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council, the Department for the Economy, NI, and Research England – are seeking views from subject communities on the draft Panel criteria publication developed by the REF expert panels.

They are also calling for responses on key aspects of the Guidance on submissions publication, which they have developed with advice from the expert panels, including the equality and diversity, and interdisciplinary research advisory panels.

Consultation responses are invited from any higher education institution, association, organisation or individual with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research. Consultation responses should be submitted online at https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/DTZ1O/ by 12 noon on 15 October 2018. Further information about the REF is available at www.ref.ac.uk.”


New School History Curriculum Briefing Pack

On 27 March 2018, the Society hosted a day-long event on ‘The New School History Curriculum and the Transition to Higher Education’. This conference formed part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Royal Historical Society, and it was organised by the Society in conjunction with the Historical Association.

Recent changes to the specifications and curricula available at both GCSE and A Level have resulted in significant alterations to the historical education that students receive in English schools from years 9 to 13 (with many schools starting GCSE tuition three years before the examinations). With the first students taking the new GCSE in summer 2018, and the first cohort through the new linear A Levels having arrived at university in autumn 2017, it was a good moment in March 2018 to take stock of these developments and their implications foir the teaching of history in Higher Education.

The conference brought together over 80 delegates representing various key constituencies: representatives from all the Examination Boards in England and Wales (the Scottish SQA had to withdraw at the last moment), HEI heads of department and admission tutors, secondary teachers and members of the museum and archives sector, plus officers and councillors from the Society and the HA.

It proved to be a very stimulating day, both in terms of the presentations and discussion, and also the contacts many of us made with experts in different constituencies, and we agreed to make the extensive briefing pack available online.

The pack contains 10 items. (1) is the programme of events and speakers; (2) – (4) gives the essential background: DfE and Ofqual 2014 Subject Requirements for A and AS Levels and GCSE plus Assessment Objectives. (5) – (8) list the syllabi of the examination boards for England and Wales, including the WJEC’s new GCSE for schools in England – edquas. (9) summarises planned changes to Higher History in Scotland. Finally, we include (10) the 2017 HA’s survey of History in schools, a valuable analysis based on responses from 287 schools. We are grateful to the various authors of these briefings and reports for permission to upload them.

Prof. Ken Fincham
Vice-President (Education)

1. Event Programme and Biographies of Speakers

2. Ofqual GCE (A and AS Level) History Subject Requirements 2014

3. DfE GCSE History Subject Requirements 2014

4. Ofqual GCSE History Assessment Objectives 2014

5. AQA syllabus at A and AS Levels and GCSE and sample questions

6. OCR syllabus at A Level, and the relative popularity of modules; and GCSE syllabus

7. Pearson syllabus at A Level and GCSE

8. WJEC A Level and GCSE syllabus and eduqas (WJEC in England) GCSE for schools in England

9. SQA planned changes to Higher History from 2018-19

10. HA Survey of History in Schools in England 2017


Subject-level TEF Consultation

The Department for Education has invited responses to its technical consultation to inform the development of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) at subject level. The Society has submitted a response to the consultation that you can read here.


Book Processing Charges

Most publishers currently charge fees (“Book Processing Charges”; BPCs) to authors and their institutions for Open Access publication. The Society has issued a document surveying current BPCs from publishers working with UK-based historians: you can find it here.

The Society is engaged in the ongoing debates on Open Access and the future of book publishing. We have recently issued briefings for historians on the UK Scholarly Communications Licence, and the possible implications of Open Access requirements in future REF exercises, and we have also launched our own fee-free Open Access monograph series, New Historical Perspectives.


History Sub-Panel for REF 2021

REF 2021 is now gearing up with the appointment of the Main and Sub-Panels having taken place over 2017/18.   Professor Mark Jackson from Exeter University has been appointed Chair of the History Sub-Panel, with the support of the RHS.

Nominations for membership of the REF sub-panels were then sought from scholarly bodies. In contrast to previous exercises, societies were required to demonstrate that they had followed an open nomination process with an emphasis on equality and diversity. An unintended consequence of this requirement appears to have been that many smaller bodies that nominated directly to the previous REF chose not to do so, as they lacked the capacity to comply with the E and D requirements. Some smaller historical societies, for example, this time chose to forward nominations to the RHS.


RHS Nomination Process

On 7 November 2017, the Royal Historical Society issued a call for nominations to all Fellows. The call was posted on the RHS website, and circulated to members of Council, who were invited to disseminate it further, and specific, strong encouragement for nominations from among groups under-represented in REF2014. Self-nominations and those where nominator and nominee were employed by the same HEI, were excluded, but nominees were not required to be Fellows or Members of the RHS.

Recognising the need for a balance between continuity and new blood within the sub-panel, the RHS directly contacted members of the REF2014 sub-panel to ask if they would wish to be reconsidered for nomination. Our offer was not extended to those who had already served on more than one previous exercise, however.

After the nominations process closed, the nominations were reviewed by the President and the incoming and outgoing Vice Presidents for Research Policy (Jonathan Morris and Mary Vincent).

Adhering to a strict principle of including only one sub-panel nominee from each HEI, we compiled a set of nominations that reflected the major sub-fields in historical studies that we expect to see represented in final submissions to the panel.   In cases where we felt we lacked sufficient awareness of the field, we took advice from senior historians who were not among our nominees – usually past sub-panel members.   Altogether we submitted 40 nominations: 32 practising researchers to the History sub-panel, 3 to the Area Studies sub-panel and 1 to the Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management sub-panel; plus 4 assessors of the wider use and benefits of research to the History sub-panel.

We were particularly concerned to monitor for equality and diversity among our nominations, especially given that the REF2014 panel was all white, and included only one representative of a post-92 institution.   Of the 36 practising researcher nominations submitted by the RHS, 3 came from BAME backgrounds and 6 held positions in post ’92 institutions. 14 of the 40 were women, a somewhat disappointing proportion, but significantly higher than the c.21% within the UK history professoriate. 1 of our 4 impact assessor nominees was female, and we ensured a balance between London and non-London based nominees within this category.


Eventual Sub-panel Composition

At the end of February 2018, the first sets of appointments to the new REF sub-panels were announced. These were divided into two – an initial criteria-setting group who have begun meeting in 2018, and who will be joined in 2020 by a second set of already appointed output assessors.   A final set of sub-panellists will be appointed in 2020, following the declaration of submission intentions by UoAs, in order to align the panel’s capacity to review outputs and impact case studies to this.

18 History sub-panellists have so far been appointed – 8 for the criteria setting phase, 10 to be added as assessors in 2020. Of these 9 are female, 1 comes from a BAME background, and 1 works at a post-’92 institution.   9 were members of the REF 2014 sub-panel.   14 of the 18 sub-panellists received a nomination from the RHS.   3 RHS officers have been appointed to the sub-panel, including the President who will also serve as Deputy Chair of the panel. The appointed History sub-panellists are listed below.

Jonathan Morris
Vice President, Chair of Research Policy Committee


Criteria Phase
Prof. Mark Jackson (Exeter), Chair
Prof. Frances Andrews (St Andrews)
Prof. Margot Finn (UCL)
Prof. Matthew Hilton (QMUL)
Prof. Jonathan Morris (Hertfordshire)
Prof. Joy Porter (Hull), Interdisciplinary Adviser
Prof. Lyndal Roper (Oxford)
Prof. David Souden (British Museum)

Additions for Assessment Phase
Prof. Lynn Abrams (Glasgow)
Prof. Pratik Chakrabarti (Manchester)
Prof. Catherine Cubitt (East Anglia)
Prof. Michael Hughes (Lancaster)
Prof. Claire Langhamer (Sussex)
Prof. Paul Nugent (Edinburgh)
Prof. Phillipp Schofield (Aberystwyth)
Prof. Julian Swann (Birkbeck)
Prof. Mary Vincent (Sheffield)
Prof. Alex Walsham (Cambridge)