The End of the Subject Centre Network
The Board of the Higher Education Academy met on 10th November to decide on the organisation's future structure and focus. The HEA's future work will concentrate on activity that supports institutions and their staff in improving teaching in higher education. The Board has agreed a range of services which will be built around three aspects of the student learning experience: teacher excellence, developing academic practice and institutional strategy. The HEA Board has stated that the Academy will continue to support academics in their disciplines. However, they are disbanding the Subject Centre network and, in the future, disciplinary work will be provided by a series of associates on fixed term contracts. These associates will generally be expected to support more than one disicpline. The changes are expected to be implemented over the academic year 2011-12 and there will be some (reduced) funding for the History Subject Centre to aid in the transition.
This announcement which comes only days after the publication of the Browne report and the government's Comprehensive Spending Review is a further setback for History in Higher Education (as well as in other sectors). In the short time that the History Subject Centre has been based at Warwick we have worked with some inspirational students and academics committed to enhancing History teaching and learning at the front line. It is difficult (if not impossible) to see how such communities of practice could be sustained within the proposed structure. Resources such as our highly-regarded website will be subsumed into a generic conglomerate.
We are actively investigating possibilities of sustaining the History Subject Centre in a different guise outwith the Academy structure, not least since subject centres are widely regarded as the most valuable element within the HEA portfolio. We would be interested to hear your views and ideas, as well as your reactions to the more general HEA proposals. Our annual conference in April will offer an opportunity to discuss this along with the other challenges currently facing our discipline. If you value the work of the Subject Centre team please let us know. We are very grateful for your support.