Establishing a University-based HA Branch

By Dr Claire Hubbard-Hall (Senior Lecturer in History at BGU; City of Lincoln Branch Secretary & Membership Officer; also a HA trustee)

The City of Lincoln HA Branch as a Case Study

The following case study is based on my own experience of establishing the City of Lincoln HA branch, which is based at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln, where I am a Senior Lecturer in History. The branch launched at the university on Wednesday 19th February 2014.

Members of the BGU History team (the Programme Leader for History and myself) decided to establish a branch for the city of Lincoln and surrounding area, with the aim of achieving the following, which also mirror HA core values:

  1. The branch will act as a focus for advancing the general interest and enjoyment, and academic study of history in Lincoln and the surrounding area.
  2. Promotion of history in schools.
  3. To support teachers.

As academic members of staff, we were also driven by the many institutional benefits to hosting a HA branch at the university. These were:

  1. Enhancement of on-campus student experience (NSS & TEF).
  2. Excellent networking tool to meet with schoolteachers and FE lecturers (student recruitment & outreach).
  3. Attendance of secondary school students at branch talks/events (student recruitment).
  4. Raises the profile of the institution and History Department within locale and region.
  5. Promotion of new single honours degree in history (2015) and taught Masters in Social & Cultural History at branch events (student recruitment).
  6. University/Department public engagement through branch activities and talks.
  7. Enhancement of university research environment (REF).

Before the branch was established, we made contact with the existing Lincolnshire HA branch who offered their full support and much-appreciated advice. The branch committee convened in September 2013 and it consisted of five Lincoln secondary school & FE teachers, as well as historians from the other university in the city – the University of Lincoln. All branch officers were members of the BGU History team, apart from the Branch Membership Officer who was based at the University of Lincoln. Since the latter stepped down after three years of service, all branch officers are BGU historians. Since launching the branch, we now have a number of associate branch members who sit on the committee, as well as an undergraduate history student and a postgraduate student. The branch committee is now at full capacity and has been for the past two years.

The branch launched with a high-profile historian, Dr Tracy Borman, and the event saw a turnout of 120 people. It received local newspaper coverage also. The School of Humanities generously donated £500 to help set-up the branch and assist with the launch event.

For purposes of room booking, the branch has a partnership agreement with the university, which provides rooms free. The School of Humanities contributes 70% of the costs associated with refreshments for each branch talk. For this reason, all BGU staff and students can attend branch talks free. All students (secondary through to university) are free.

Our student history society use the first branch talk of each academic year (October) as the first event on their social calendar where first years are introduced to the student bar followed by a branch talk! This has run successfully for the past three years. In terms of pulling together a branch programme, we invite speakers that fit with particular module delivery, as well as parts of the curriculum that are taught in schools at the time. We have attracted a number of high profile historians who have made return visits to the branch such as Tracy Borman and Alison Weir. Such speakers usually attract a high fee but they kindly waiver this for the HA branch on the promise of holding a book signing event. Therefore, we have excellent links with Waterstones of Lincoln and Lindum Books, which is Lincoln’s only independent bookstore.

In terms of supporting teachers, this is something that the branch have struggled to achieve to date. However, plans are afoot to establish the East Midlands HA History Forum, which will launch at BGU in November this year. For the past two years, the branch and university have hosted the Lincolnshire heat of the HA Great Debate – again, an excellent opportunity to meet teachers and students.

The branch is currently looking into submitting a future Heritage Lottery bid on Lincoln during the Second World War, with academic members of staff written into such a bid as historical consultants.

The benefits are establishing or hosting an existing HA branch are far-reaching and rewarding – for both the university and the Historical Association. They offer a way of tapping into an existing student body and help promote the HA’s profile as well as reaching out to all those who are interested and enjoy history within the locale. The HA benefits from a fresh intake of new HA speakers, as well as making contact with university History departments who might not be fully aware of the HA and the work it does.

Lastly, before any university HA branch comes about, there needs to be enthusiastic and willing academic members of staff to take a lead on such a commitment. Perhaps this is where HA advocates in university departments comes in...