school of arts

what have I learnt?: about learning…

feminism as ‘men’s business’: doctoral research project in gender politics

A little history. I studied in four different Schools of Arts, including a very old one in the town of Graz in Austria. I taught in three, and I visited dozens on a research project investigating the situation of the humanities in contemporary universities.

Not all call themselves a ‘School of Arts’, they go by different names, sometimes changing names as often as they change heads. They are remarkably diverse. They have the humanities in common, but that can also mean they have little in common. Some have a mere handful of tenured academics, while the biggest boast Nobel laureates and budgets greater than some universities. In many, philosophy is central; in others, it’s almost non-existent. There’s a tension here between the long history of the core disciplines and the imperative for newer schools to identify as ‘contemporary’.

I have a favourite, but it’s not where I studied or taught. It’s the School of Arts at the University of Stirling.This one is actually called the School of Arts and Humanities. A beautiful university, Stirling, with its enormous park-like campus, its exquisite loch and 18th century Airthrey Castle on the hill. I’m sure it’s taxing in the Scottish winter, but in September when the academic year begins, it’s just wonderful to stroll around. 

I’ve been twice and interviewed some inspiring academics there. Their home is the Pathfoot Building, a modernist building from the 1960s. It’s also a public art gallery and houses the university’s collection. There is literature and languages in the Pathfoot Building, philosophy and history, politics and law, media and communications. Quite enough for a banquet. 

Tertiary education is free in Scotland, (if you’re Scottish), which suggests a particular attitude: learning is for everyone.

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