Assessment Report / Dpt of Social Science History
Created By: on 10/03/1999 at 12:31 PM
Category: 23 History Category2: Dpt of Social Science History, Assessment Reports

Report of the Evaluation Panel for History

Department of Social Science History

The panel visited the department of Social Science History on 30 September. It was very favourably impressed by the preparations which this department had made to assist the panel in its work. The written material that had been sent in advance was full and informative, and the staff and students who attended the meeting with the panel were cooperative and helpful. In general the panel was very favourably impressed by apparent spirit of cooperation between the members of staff and the students present. This gave the feeling that close and informal relations prevailed between the staff and the students, and that there was good and free exchange of ideas between them. The department clearly possesses a good corporate identity which makes a valuable contribution to its succesful functioning. The panel also noted that there seemed to be a good gender balance in both the staffing and the programmes of the department.

This is a rather small department in relation to the fields of academic work that it is expected to cover. The number of permanent staff members seemed unusually small, so that key project leaders were employed on short-term contracts. The panel felt that if the department was to operate with maximum effectiveness, and in particular to plan and pursue longer term academic strategies, it would be helped by the funding of additional permanent staff. It was also apparent that the restricted scale and the uncertainty of funding of the department could have a similar detrimental effect on the development of its activities. The panel noted with approval that the department pursues a policy of collaboration with its parallel department in the university of Turku, and has developed extensive international contacts and joint working. The department has also pursued an active policy on sending members to international conferences and participating in the organisation of such events, which is a mark that it has established international recognition.

It was the wish of the department that its research work be assessed by internal division, so the panel is offering a separate assessment for Political History and Economic and Social history. There may be disadvantages to be discerned in the further division of an already small academic department into two independent sections. But it has to be observed that in practice this arrangement seems to function satisfactorily, not least because of the good level of cooperation between its component sections. The panel noted with approval that it is current policy in the department to seek to extend this cooperation. It would also suggest that it would be advantageous to develop projects involving the joint participation of both of its internal sections, which would strengthen the cohesion between the sections.

Political History

This section is a small group of teachers and students who are producing some very commendable research. The panel noted that in effect the period of history covered was largely confined to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, though the work in Russian history extends further back in time.The panel judged that the three major projects in political history, on the Cold War, on Communism and on Russia and Finland were well conceived and had already produced good results. It was noted that the Russia project will soon come to an end and that consideration will have to be given to how it is to be replaced in the portfolio of the departmental projects.

The panel was presented with 24 publications of the section for assessment, and agreed that 8 of these were of high international standard , 6 were of good international standard and 7 were of fair international standard. If the formula recommended by the university for interpreting these results were strictly applied, they would be on the border between grade 5 and grade 6. The panel decided to use the discretion allowed to it to take into consideration the positive supporting information about the research activity of the section that had been gathered during its visit and decided to assess the section grade 6.

Economic and Social History

The panel was favourably impressed by the projects which form the major part of the work of this section, though the panel noted that in this section too the work did not seem to reach back earlier than 1800. Some of these seem rather ambitiously titled, suggesting a more extensive effort than the limited resources of the section would be able to cope with, but on enquiry it was apparent that they were well organised and working satisfactorily. The panel would like to suggest that there could be advantage, and economy of effort if the project on Famine Years were to be merged with that on Markets, Institutions, Actors, and the project on the Environmental Question merged with the Sea and Cities project. But these all seem to be succesful ideas, the level of international cooperation developed for Seas and Cities, and the interdisciplinary possibilities of these projects commended themselves strongly to the panel. The panel was impressed by the descriptions of these projects by the leaders, and by the evident enthusiasm of the graduate student members who were involved in them. If the limited resources available to the section is taken into account, it seems to be covering a wide range of useful research activity. The panel would especially note the very considerable contribution to international scholarship which is represented by the work done in this section on producing the series of economic statistics for Finland, which will remain a basic tool for any further research on the Finnish economy. The involvement of the section in the publication of the journal Scandinavian Economic History Review, also represents an active participation in international scholarship. In addition this section has been very active in participation in international conferences, it is going to organise the European Business History Conference in 2002, and has under current consideration a proposal to organise a World Economic History Conference in 2006.

The panel was presented with 27 publications of this section of the department for assessment and agreed that 9 of these were of high international standard, 4 were of good international standard and 10 were of fair international standard. On the basis of these results, the panel decided to assess the section grade 5. It would wish to add that in the view of the panel this grading means that the standard of the research being produced by this section was above the average level for this kind of research in European universities.