Interview with Professor Hugh Clout
22 June 2004
Professor Hugh Clout FBA (Geography) has been Dean of the Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences (SHS) since 1995.
What major research have you overseen in your period as dean?
The Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences (SHS) had only been in existence for one year when I took over as dean. It was largely a collection of departments from the old Faculty of Arts, but also had some additions from other faculties.
It has recently seen the addition of the School of Public Policy, and two departments - History and Social Sciences - from UCL's School of Slavonic & Eastern European Studies (SSEES). As befits a faculty that is achieving top Research Assessment Exercise results of 5, 5* and 5** for its various departments, there is a lot of excellent research going on. I think, in particular, of environmental work in the Department of Geography, of Chinese archaeology in the Institute of Archaeology and of collaborative work among historians - not only in the Department of History but also at SSEES.
Describe current research in your faculty.
The faculty covers many themes, ranging from the arts to laboratory science, from the 'pure' to the 'applied', and deals with the past, the present and the future. It is the ideal locale for interdisciplinary work.
Now that you're stepping down as dean, what research will you be working on?
Over the past nine years I have continued to research aspects of reconstruction in France, after both world wars. It is, of course, a very topical subject given our current celebrations of D-Day. I shall work on my next monograph, dealing with reconstruction in France between 1945 and 1965, and a range of articles are in the pipeline covering reconstruction. I am also examining the practice of academic geography in France. Over the past nine years, I have found it possible to do the research, mainly during weekends and vacations, but not to write up as much as I would have liked. Now that I will have the time, I look forward to it.
What are your favourite achievements as dean?
Presenting students on graduation days, seeing excellent colleagues through the senior promotions process each year, introducing inaugural lectures delivered by new professors in the faculty, and deciding, along with others, which student will win the Faculty Medal each year.
What will you miss most about being dean?
Being 'in the know', and coming in for all those 8.30am meetings! Also I shall miss the breadth of UCL activities, when I 'retreat' back into my home department.
What major research awards have your faculty successfully acquired during your time as dean?
The faculty has a regular crop of colleagues being awarded book prizes, receiving international honours such as medals and prizes, and being elected to Fellowship of the British Academy.
What makes working and teaching at UCL special?
There is a certain pace and dynamism about the place. Go, go, go! It can be exhausting but it does keep you on your toes. The students are good and fun to teach. The library resources are a hidden treasure of UCL. Don't believe that the electronic catalogue holds all the answers. There is the wonderful card catalogue that covers all the items not listed electronically. And never take the library's response that we do not have (or cannot find) a listed item. It may drive you crazy trying to convince them, but they almost always come up trumps!
What are the hot topics in geography for the future?
Global warming, coping with human inequalities and exclusion, and managing heritage in a world that is globalising and changing so fast!
What would you like to see changed in your faculty in the future?
For the faculty, I would like to see accommodation improved for departments such as History and History of Art. There will be significant improvements for many other departments in the near future, with new and refurbished buildings. For Geography, I would like us all to be back in one building, because at present there are colleagues scattered in five buildings. This situation is very difficult when trying to maintain a sense of cohesion and community. And, of course, that is also the challenge for UCL as a whole, given its current size and spatial dispersion among so many buildings and sites.