Higher Education in Scotland: Experiences In Developing An Interdisciplinary Social Science Curriculum
The current climate in Higher Education provision in Scotland, especially since Devolution, is one where inclusion and diversity take priority. This in itself poses new challenges. For example, difficulties with student retention and academic standards are two of many problems facing the Higher Education sector today. Bell College is a Higher Education institution in Lanarkshire, which has been delivering Social Science degrees since 2000. The latest curriculum development was the successful validation of a top-up Honours year by the Open University Validation Services in May 2006. Small institutions with limited resources, such as Bell, have recently joined the race to provide for the ever-expanding body of students. This new era of diversity befits the designing of degrees that offer inter-disciplinarity as well as multi-disciplinarity. The Social Sciences, by definition, lend themselves to an interdisciplinary approach despite the increasing trend for specialisation across the university sector.
Our experiences in curriculum development have shown us that achieving inter-disciplinarity is as difficult as it is desirable. Limitations in terms of staff resources and the resulting restrictions in fields of expertise, as well as the lack of specialised departments to rely on, made the process of designing an interdisciplinary curriculum particularly difficult. This difficulty was compounded by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) subject benchmark statements, which prescribe the content and standard of delivery only in terms of specialised areas, which meant that they had to be adapted in order to accommodate an interdisciplinary approach. This paper will present our experience of designing the Honour’s year, the process of its validation and the concerns and aspirations about its expected progress. It is anticipated that this work may highlight areas suitable for future research on inter-disciplinarity in higher education.
Keywords: Higher Education, Interdisciplinarity, Curriculum Design
Dr Kallia Manoussaki
Lecturers, Social Studies, Bell College
Lecturer, Social Studies, Bell College