Professor Melveena McKendrick was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature of the University in recognition of her outstanding contribution to literature and the arts.
“Over the 50 years I have spent in university education there have been great changes. The rise in the female student population has been dramatic, as has the huge expansion of postgraduate numbers due largely to the proliferation of Masters degrees. There has been considerable movement, too, in undergraduate studies, with new or reconfigured courses in such as Computer Science, Linguistics, Management Studies, and Manufacturing Engineering. The content of traditional courses in the Arts and Humanties has changed as well: literary studies now extend into other disciplines; critical theory and gender studies are embedded in many subjects; and the study of history places greater emphasis on social, economic and cultural history. In the Sciences, research-led teaching has been a guarantee of change: cutting-edge research is increasingly carried out across the boundaries of science’s traditional divisions, and the need for crossdisciplinary courses has become a pressing issue.
The arrival of the electronic age has been transformative. Course information, bibliographies, hand-outs, feed-back questionnaires, access to library catalogues, and in some cases lecture notes, are available on university websites for students to access at will. An increasing number of universities in the UK and abroad are placing their lectures and courses on the internet to be accessed by students around the world. The other major development in higher educational culture has been the introduction of quality assessment and control, which has effectively led to the professionalisation of teaching. We learned to reflect on our methods, procedures and standards, and on the nature and aims of our courses. The introduction of student feedback made us think harder about how we taught.Change, therefore, has been very positive. Now there are undoubtedly serious tensions in the system: the challenge of continuing to provide top-quality education with diminished resources; the proper balance between teaching and research; the need for widening participation; the financial stress on students entering higher education. Fortunately, the university sector has become adept at adapting to change and embracing the new. As long as our universities retain the two over-arching aims of excellence of student learning opportunities and a stimulating environment for all those who learn and teach in them, I am confident that our universities will remain among the best in the world.”