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Arts and humanities, social sciences and medical humanities

August 16, 2011

University of York – by Mark Ormrod and Andrew Webster

Arts and humanities disciplines are central to the academic excellence and aspiration of the University of York. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), four of seven arts and humanities departments were in the UK top five of their respective disciplines, and all had a majority of research classified as internationally excellent. Since then, York has continued its strong record of commitment to arts and humanities, including the creation of a Humanities Research Centre with superb facilities in the new, purpose-built Berrick Saul Building.

There is a long and distinguished tradition of interdisciplinary research, and the University supports a series of specialist centres and institutes including the Centres for Medieval Studies, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, Eighteenth Century Studies, and Modern Studies, the Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History, and the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past. Medical humanities have been developed, particularly in the work of the Department of History. The Borthwick Institute for Archives, located in the University’s JB Morrell Library, is the major public record office of the north of England and includes very substantial holdings relating to the history of medicine.

The University of York's Berrick Saul Building. Stuart Brown on Flickr

The University of York's Berrick Saul Building. Stuart Brown on Flickr

The University of York is one of the UK’s leading social science research centres, as demonstrated by our performance in the 2008 RAE, with over 60 per cent of social science research activity graded as world-leading or internationally excellent. A number of our departments, including Sociology and Health Sciences, are currently ranked top in the UK. This is matched by similarly high-quality teaching provision across the postgraduate and undergraduate levels, reflected in our receiving the Times University of the Year Award in 2010. York’s social science departments include Social Policy and Social Work, Education, Economics, the York Law School, Health Sciences, Politics, Sociology and the York Management School, as well as a number of world-class centres such as the Centre for Health Economics (CHE), the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD), the Centre for Housing Policy, the Social Policy Research Unit, the Science and Technology Studies Unit and the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit. The department- based excellence is complemented by the resources and facilities of the Alcuin Research Resource Centre, which provides a central location for research and training in the social sciences, fostering interdisciplinary programmes that have regional, national and international impact.

The arts and humanities at York have led the way in developing partnerships with local, national and regional bodies in the public and private sectors to support research activity and enhance its dissemination. There is a particularly strong record of achievement in attracting Collaborative Doctoral Awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The social sciences at York have extensive links with external partners across the private, public and third sectors, particularly in the areas of business and management, social policy, sustainability and health.

We have a number of interdisciplinary research collaborations, and are currently developing strong links on three fronts: health, environment and urban studies. These cut across the social sciences, humanities and biomedical sciences. For example, we have a wide range of social science–humanities shared interests across campus, including work on: the social patterning of health by socioeconomic position, ethnicity, gender and age; how evidence of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness is applied to health policy; communication within healthcare; the historical, economic and philosophical debates relating to the meaning of wellbeing; innovation and new health technology adoption; effectiveness and health technology adoption, etc.; international/ global dynamics of health; and health services management and policy. Some of the key departments working in these areas include Health Sciences, the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination and the Centre for Health Economics, who have especially strong links with health policy within the region and Whitehall.

Mark Ormrod is Professor at the Department of History, University of York, where he is also the Academic Coordinator of the Arts and Humanities. Andrew Webster is Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of York, where he is also the Academic Coordinator of Social Sciences.

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