Congratulations to the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022!

Posted on: 1 August 2022 by Professor Mark Towsey in 2022 posts

History staff and PhD students at summer graduation 2022

This summer we draw the final curtain on what has been the most turbulent and demanding period in the life of university departments up and down the country. In History at Liverpool, not only have we seen our wonderfully resilient class of 2022 graduate in person in the sumptuous surroundings of Hope Street’s Philharmonic Hall, but we have also welcomed back to campus – at long last! – well over 300 students from the classes of 2020 and 2021. These students were denied their own in-person graduation ceremonies due to lockdown restrictions, and it was a tremendous privilege – and not a little emotional – to see them again in person.

As Head of Department, I had the honour of serving as ‘Presenting Officer’ at our catch-up ceremony for the class of 2020 and was reminded powerfully of the unusually close bonds that were forged between students and staff as teaching moved online. My four-month old baby became a frequent (and hopefully cheering!) guest at one-to-one supervision meetings, as I worked closely with dissertation students to make the very best of their research often in the very worst of circumstances. I know that many of my colleagues share similar stories of the unusual teaching environments into which we were suddenly thrust, and we are immensely grateful to our students for working with us to adapt to these changes.

History graduate with prizegiving award

The class of 2022, of course, endured disruption throughout the entire course of their undergraduate degree, not least in this their final year as we worked to get back to something much more like normality. But they have all achieved something magnificent, completing an undergraduate degree in truly unprecedented circumstances. Reading through their final year dissertations has given me a humbling sense of their undaunted curiosity and resourcefulness in taking on a quite extraordinary range of topics – often with astonishingly impressive results – ranging from research projects on torture in late twentieth-century Argentina, violence in colonial India, and reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda – to piety and politics in the Byzantine Empire, female slave owners in the American South and working-class masculinity in modern Britain.

This reflects on the sheer diversity of historical periods, places and topics available to students studying History at Liverpool, which was a key theme in graduate speaker Aisha Taylor Duran’s eloquent and perceptive address at this week’s graduation ceremony. We hope that the skills – in critical thinking, reading, writing and debating as much as in historical perspective – that we have sought to develop throughout their degree will equip the class of 2022 to make their own distinctive contributions to tackling the formidable environmental, social, cultural and political challenges the world faces today.

Professor Mark Towsey with History graduate

After such a challenging few years, it’s more important than ever that we listen to what our students have to say and take into account their views as we plan for the year ahead. Continuing to enrich the diversity of our degree remains one of our primary objectives as a department, and one of our first goals in 2022-23 will be to undertake a deep mapping of our curriculum to assess how far our teaching already engages with real world challenges – especially in the areas of equality and diversity, class, sustainability and climate change – and identify where we can do more. We will be continuing to enhance the ways in which we prepare students for the world of work, with some exciting plans to further embed employability in modules at every stage in our curriculum. And above all, we are looking forward to working with our students to rebuild the department’s sense of community, building on our experimental Lunch & Learn sessions last semester. Students and staff alike should look out for further opportunities to share ideas, coffee and cake outside of the classroom in the academic year to come – but in the meantime, have a great summer!