UK experiencing explosion in taught history Masters degrees in diverse subjects
Opportunities to study history at postgraduate level have never been more copious. The growth of taught Masters programmes offered by UK universities over the past few years is graphically demonstrated by the annual surveys in History Today magazine.
The 2000 survey noted that "the range of choices... continues to grow exponentially". It listed 156 courses. By 2004 there were 289 on offer, while this year the magazine - evidently feeling that too much valuable space was being demanded - discontinued individual listings but noted the wide range of options available in some institutions, with both Birkbeck College, London, and Glasgow offering 13 different courses.
Proliferation is equally in evidence at institutional level. Barry Doyle, leader of the MA programmes at Teesside University, says: "We had courses in the 1980s, but they fizzled out in the 1990s. We started bringing them back in 2000 because there was clearly a demand."
Sian Nicholas, director of postgraduate studies in the department of history and Welsh history at Aberystwyth University, says : "Five years ago we had maybe three programmes. Now we have nine or 10 separate pathways. We introduced media history last year and this year are bringing in Celtic history, historians in the making of history - which is a historiographical programme - and early modern Britain."
It recalls the dramatic growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s of Master in business administration courses, with hardly a week seeming to pass without the announcement of some fresh variation on the MBA theme, each with its unique selling proposition.
Like that expansion, the growth in history Masters reflects pressure on both the supply and demand sides. But where MBA growth was largely generated in the private sector, with fast-expanding consultancies and merchant banks offering employment to the newly credentialed, the drive for historians is largely rooted in changes in academic life.
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