Teaching on less commonly taught Area Studies

Date: 14 March, 2003
Location: CiLT
Event type: Meeting

Past event summary

The Subject Centre aims to support those teaching on courses that specialise in particular parts of the world. Most area studies courses in the UK specialise in American or (Western) European Studies. The Subject Centre also, however, wishes systematically to address and cater to the needs of African Studies, Latin American Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and other lesser-taught area studies. The object of the meeting was to gather together ideas about what the needs of this community might be and how the Subject Centre might best address them. Accordingly, the agenda was deliberately kept open.

We hope that the meeting will enable the Subject Centre to support practitioners on lesser-taught programmes better. If there is demand there may be the possibility of the Subject Centre organising workshops for the further exchange of ideas on specific aspects of teaching and learning issues on these programmes.

Event report

by John Canning

12 practitioners responded to an open invitation to a meeting discussing issues surrounding less commonly taught Area Studies. Those present included representatives from African Studies, Asian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Caribbean Studies, Eastern European Studies and Latin American Studies. The discussion centred around key issues in Area Studies including interdisciplinarity and course design, recruitment, the role of language teaching on Area Studies programmes, study abroad and dealing with university administrations.

Unfortunately, many programmes in these Area Studies are under threat of closure. Whilst in some cases recruitment has been difficult, most programmes represented have maintained a healthy student interest, but are nevertheless threatened by administrative restructuring within their institutions

Those present shared strategies to support and enhance the profiles of their departments and Area Studies programmes. Despite pressure to remove language studies and the year abroad from the curriculum, most of those present had found that these are very important recruitment tools. It was also agreed that more needs to be done to demonstrate both to students and to university administrators the transferable skills and job opportunities Area Studies graduates enjoy.

Finally, it was agreed that teachers on Area Studies programmes should seek to be visible within their institutions. They can get involved in cross-departmental committees and ensure that the achievements of their departments are well publicised in the institution’s newsletter. These activities go far towards raising the profile of their Area Studies programmes and ensuring that it’s worth is known throughout the university.