Belfast Telegraph

Queen's staff criticise chief over history comments

By Rebecca Black

Academics from Queen's University have criticised vice-chancellor Patrick Johnston for suggesting that "society does not need a 21-year-old that's a sixth century historian".

A group of more than 40 staff of the School of History and Anthropology said they were disappointed by statements made in an interview with this paper.

In an open letter, they claimed that the vice-chancellor "appears to question the value of the study of history, and of the humanities subjects".

The academics also pointed out that three ministers in the current Stormont Executive - Simon Hamilton, Mairtin O Muilleoir and Chris Hazzard - had graduated in either history or anthropology.

"The disciplines of history and anthropology foster core skills in research, analysis, cultural literacy, critical thinking, communication and persuasion that are valued by a wide range of employers," they wrote.

"Our graduates often go on to productive careers in media, heritage, teaching, the civil service, development work and non-governmental organisations, while others find that the skills gained in undergraduate study easily transfer into fields as diverse as software engineering, business management and law.

"In an uncertain and rapidly changing employment market, we believe that the adaptability of our graduates prepares them well for the future."

The staff members additionally claimed a university education was about more than employment skills, saying students also gained a "critical and sophisticated comprehension of how human societies and cultures work, and how they have changed and how that change has been remembered over time".

The academics also announced in the letter that they planned to hold a public event later this year to publicise the "social value of the humanities".

It is understood that after receiving a number of complaints, Mr Johnston spoke privately to workers to explain his remarks. He also issued a public apology that was welcomed by staff members.

Belfast Telegraph


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