Chalk Talk: Two-and-a-half cheers for Gove's reforms from the history boys


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The Independent Online

Spare a thought for Professor Jonathan Clark, professor of British history at the University of Kansas and one of three eminent panellists debating the proposed new history curriculum at a seminar organised by the right-of-centre thinktank Politeia last week.

He was at some disadvantage – although you would not have thought it – making his appearance via Skype from the United States, where it was just six o'clock in the morning.

Undaunted, he did in fact come up with the best soundbite of the day when the discussion moved on to whether the three academics – who broadly supported Education Secretary Michael Gove's proposed reforms, which bring a more chronological order to the teaching of history and concentrate on Britain and England – felt they were in a minority in their profession.

"I think all history professors should be in a minority of one," he replied.

At the end of the hour-long debate, the assembled multitude were invited to partake in wine and sandwiches, as it was lunchtime. Presumably in Professor Clark's case it was either back to bed or scrambled egg and bacon to set him up for the day.

It is the end of an era in the world of higher education thinktanks?

Bahram Bekhradnia is stepping down as the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) after 11 years in the post.

During that time he has turned the organisation, which he founded, into one of the most respected on the higher education scene, with its research into issues such as the new fees regime and student numbers – although, it must be admitted, it has sometimes got up the noses of folk in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

The chairman of his board of trustees, Sir Graeme Davies, said of HEPI that it had established a reputation as "a critical friend to the HE sector".

He will not be completely retiring from the scene, though, as he intends to adopt an advisory role as president of HEPI. His successor, whoever it will be, is scheduled to take over on 1 January, 2014.