What departments of history are doing about lower enrollments

Historians in the News
tags: history crisis

Five historians reflect on the disciplinary, institutional, social and political challenges facing their subject.

Jon T. Coleman (Professor and chair of the history department at the University of Notre Dame.)

... While the number of undergraduate history degrees awarded fell across the US between 1970 and 2015, Department of Education data reveal that the total number of doctorates conferred has held steadier. Indeed, one of the ways by which history departments maintained their profiles as their major numbers sank was to pin their reputations to their postgraduate programmes. But this strategy exposed departments to a statistical pincer movement. Fewer undergraduates meant fewer job openings for PhDs. In November 2017, the American Historical Association reported a decline in the number of jobs being advertised in history for the fifth straight year.

Accordingly, we at Notre Dame reformed our graduate programme two years ago to hasten time to degree and began to prepare our students to wield history not only in the lecture theatre, as tenure-track professors, but also in the school classroom and the boardroom, as well as in higher education administrative posts such as admissions and undergraduate support. But then, last autumn, the university reformed its undergraduate curriculum, allowing students to choose between a history and a social science course. We received a visit from the dean and were told that we needed to confront our numbers.

So, like many history departments across the country, we are clarifying our purpose and refurbishing our brand. We launched a new history minor, and we are retooling the major to better reflect our global reach and our new clusters of expertise in areas such as the history of capitalism and comparative world empires. The future may not be bright, but I am certain that it will be filled with wild-eyed historians gathered in such clusters, ready to ambush engineering majors with the latest humanities job outcome data....

Read entire article at Times Higher Education

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