Sunday, 9 November 2008


To mark the publication of Controversy and Crisis – my book of collected essays (published in July by the Academic Studies Press) that cover some of the most sensitive and divisive issues to have confronted British Jewry in recent times – I am, in the interests of historical research, publishing electronically original documents in my possession related to these topics.

In 1992 the Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies at University College London (UCL) was engulfed in a series of controversies involving its internal management and its relationship with the University of London, of which UCL was (and is) a part. These events were briefly referred to in the second edition of my monograph Modern British Jewry (Oxford University Press, 1998). I was then Chairman of the Academic Council of the University, as well as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic Standards. I thus had a ‘ringside seat’ at the events which unfolded, but it also fell to me to deal in a professional capacity with the issues that emerged.

In 1992 the Executive Committee of the Academic Council was asked to regularise an alarming situation that had come to light in the Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies at UCL. It appeared that students there had been taught a degree syllabus that the University had never approved. My Executive Committee decided that whilst the students had to be protected some drastic action was necessary, not least because of an impending ‘academic audit’ of the University by the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. It therefore insisted that UCL undertake a fundamental administrative review of the department concerned.

The report of that review, presented to the University in June 1992, is now reproduced at: .

I should add that the acceptance and implementation of the recommendations made in that review were by no means the end of the matter. Other causes for concern came to light in the course of 1992 relating to the University’s External BA in Jewish History, which the department at UCL had been permitted to run on behalf of the University. At its meeting on 27 November 1992 the Standing Committee of the Board of Studies in History minuted its view that one way forward might be for ‘recognition’ of the degree, by the University, to be withdrawn. In June 1993 an External Examiner for this degree (who himself was a faculty member of the University of Cambridge) characterised the manner in which UCL ran this degree programme as “a kind of controlled chaos.”

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