University Senate Proposed:
RESOLUTION TO ESTABLISH A PROGRAM LEADING TO DUAL MASTER OF ARTS DEGREES IN INTERNATIONAL AND WORLD HISTORY AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND AT THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS.
WHEREAS the proposed dual degree program will provide students with the opportunity to conduct original research with different faculties in distinct but complementary intellectual environments,
WHEREAS students will explore two universities, two countries, and two continents, with all of the attendant differences in focus, attitudes, and teaching techniques,
WHEREAS such an expanded perspective is invaluable for students of international and world history,
the Department of History at Columbia University and the Department of
International History at London School of Economics have complementary strengths in course offerings and faculty expertise (Columbia is particularly strong in the history of migrations, trade and consumption, social movements, international and non-governmental organizations, while LSE is second to none in political and diplomatic history),
WHEREAS no other history program offers such a broad range of faculty expertise in region, period, and methodology.
WHEREAS the research skills acquired in first year core courses will be honed in the second year thesis writing workshop,
WHEREAS two years are required to achieve the level of foreign language fluency needed to perform research using that language and/or in countries in which that language is used,
WHEREAS the close cultural relationship and common language of Britain and the U.S. enables U.S. students to adjust quickly to the London School of Economics, and thereby maximize the advantages of a two-year program,
WHEREAS the proposed program neither replaces nor duplicates programs/courses offered by other units of the University, and
is a clear need in the
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Senate establish the DUAL MASTER OF ARTS DEGREE PROGRAM IN INTERNATIONAL AND WORLD HISTORY AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND AT THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Senate forward this resolution to the Trustees for appropriate action.
Committee on Education
November 5, 2007
Double MA program in International and World History
The Advantage of the Two-Year Double Degree
A dual degree with LSE provides students with the opportunity to conduct original research with different faculties in distinct but complementary intellectual environments. They will be able to explore two universities, two countries, and two continents, with all of the attendant differences in focus, attitudes, and teaching techniques. Such an expansion of perspective is invaluable, even indispensable, for students of international and world history. Yet the relatively close cultural relationship between Britain and the U.S., and a common language, allows students to make the necessary adjustments quickly, and maximize the advantages of a two-year program.
The two departments have complementary strengths in their course offerings and faculty expertise. Columbia is particularly strong in the history of migrations, trade and consumption, social movements, international and non-governmental organizations, while LSE is second to none in political and diplomatic history. Students can therefore select from a very broad range of courses that neither department could provide singly. No other degree program offers such a broad range of expertise in region, period, and methodology.
But this is a research-oriented program, not just a collection of courses. That is one reason why language training is such a key component, and adequate training in a foreign language could not be achieved in one year. It is also unique in training students in research skills – especially in the core courses – and then requiring a year-long thesis-writing workshop. Two years is essential if we want students to have adequate time both to develop and apply skills in framing projects, analyzing the literature, and pursuing the requisite archival research. Moreover, in addition to the designated supervisors from both institutions, they will learn from faculty in different courses along with their peer group. The program is a “boot camp” for students who want to undertake original research in international and world history, a recognized developmental priority not just in our two departments, but the larger historical profession.
New York and London also have tremendous advantages as sites for archival research in international and world history. The British Library and National Archives in Kew are unmatched for colonial and diplomatic history, and rapid rail links mean that the national archives of France and the European Union in Paris and Brussels are just two-to-three hours away. New York, for its part, offers the archives of the United Nations as well as the largest international foundations (Ford and Rockefeller). The U.S. National Archives are also a half-day’s journey away.
The two-site design and the two-year duration thus reflect the core values of the program: encouraging a multi-perspectival approach to our common past, but demanding rigorous and original research. It will provide graduates with the opportunity to develop life-long contacts on both sides of the Atlantic, using Columbia and LSE as launching pads for a wide range of careers combining intellectual and professional development.
Access to Core and Elective Courses
One reason the history department considers the MA program a top priority is that we have had a significant reduction in the number of graduate students over the past decade as we move to offering full-funding for five years to everyone admitted. Between Columbia and Barnard, we have over one hundred faculty offering history courses on this campus, and only 20-22 Ph.D. students admitted each year. Bringing additional students to small classes will stimulate discussion and prevent further reduction of graduate offerings. As the original application notes, it might also help us to revive specialized courses that have been discontinued because of the decline in the number of graduate students. As for LSE, they would not have entered into this partnership if they did not have ample capacity to admit more MA students, and they have confirmed that these students will have the same right of entry to courses as other MA students – for instance, those in the LSE-PKU program.
Students will be guaranteed admission to all core courses at both institutions. As for electives, there are some that are subject to space availability, notably the undergraduate seminars (i.e. Columbia’s 4000 level courses) and, at LSE, some of the Economic History courses. But we expect that students will choose the great majority of their courses from among the graduate offerings within the two departments.
Breadth versus Depth
In-depth training in history requires a focus on history courses. Courses from other departments – i.e. sociology, anthropology, statistics, and economics – will be available as electives (again, with permission from the instructor). During the first year at Columbia students can take two electives. The LSE list of year-long courses includes titles from its Economic History department. Acceptance to the program does not require quantitative courses, but such courses will be available to students who wish to take them, just as they will be free to take courses in other, more “qualitative” disciplines.
With the sharply increased competition to top-tier history Ph.D. programs (multi-year, full-funding is now the norm at all peer institutions) a new need for preparation beyond a BA degree has emerged. In the last four years, we have received 177 applications for the Ph.D. track in international and global history, but were only able to offer admission to 11. Approximately a third of students admitted to Columbia’s Ph.D. program have been enrolled in MA programs. Georgetown has just created a 3-4 semester “Master of Arts in Global, International, and Comparative History.” We expect such MA programs to proliferate in the coming years. We would like ours to establish a reputation of excellence from the beginning.
Those planning more advanced training in history will be the core constituency for this program. It is necessary to have a specific audience in mind to create a coherent curriculum. But at the same time, a vibrant program promoting both research and debate in international and world history will attract people with a wide variety of career goals, including students who will use the terminal MA degree to further careers in the foreign service, journalism, NGO's, international organizations, and the public sector. Many of our Ph.D. students have found a doctorate in history to be valuable in pursuing a range of different careers. As for secondary school history teachers, most earn an MA at some
point. This program would provide an excellent option for intellectually ambitious secondary school teachers.
Our dual degree with LSE will expand students' perspectives, by exposing them to two intellectual communities with two exceptionally distinguished faculties. Even though we only list one contact person at the LSE, as a department of international history all faculty will be part of the program. The fact that much of the impetus for this program from the LSE side has come from non-British professors is just one indication of London's invaluable role as a gateway to Europe, both its history and its academic/intellectual
If we were to partner with a university in a non-English speaking country we would narrow our focus and limit our program. The LSE-Beijing program is of necessity addressed to students who are focused on China. We have designed a language requirement that is intended not to discourage study of a non-European language (as would be the case, for instance, if we required proficiency before graduation). But we will encourage students to learn the appropriate languages required for their research, which could be for, example, Hungarian and German, or Polish and Russian, or indeed Chinese and Korean.
Coordination with LSE
Students often find advisors and mentors through reading the work of historians at other universities. In this case, a new faculty exchange program will ensure that there will be an LSE faculty member physically present at Columbia every year, and a Columbia faculty member in residence at the LSE. This will further ensure that students will be able to obtain advice and guidance in selecting an LSE advisor, a process that will be overseen by the program coordinator and program director.
The quality control procedures described in the application will be undertaken by both institutions. As the application states, "Our success will be measured by student feedback," and this goes for both Columbia and the LSE. Like Columbia, the LSE collects student evaluations for every course. These contribute to discussions in the LSE’s Graduate Staff-Student Committee, minutes of which are discussed at Staff Meetings. The International History Department reviews all courses in an annual teaching and exams meeting. There is also an external examiner who contributes to the process. These evaluations will help to shape the program and its offerings, especially in the first years.
Moreover, the two institutions will jointly review the program. Our memorandum of understanding calls for a formal review in the 2011/2012 academic year. By that point, we will have the information needed to assess not only student achievement and satisfaction, but also completion rates and placement.
Associate Professor of History
Line Lillevik, Ph.D.
MA Program Coordinator