The Flow of Ideas

Posted on November 30, 2011


The other day I mused about how certain universities dominate where academics get their degrees from and how this might influence the spread of ideas. Taking this a bit further I looked at the distribution of academics, in the UK, by decade to see if there were trends over time. Again, using the distribution of 333 archaeologists out of the current 442 academic archaeologists I looked at the year those staff member got their first academic job. This data was incomplete so I substituted in the year that some received their degree. While these numbers are not perfect, the majority of staff do get their jobs within a few years of getting their PhD so they are a good proxy. This resulted in a slightly smaller data-set, 244, which is still more than half of the current academic staff in the UK. The results were-

I highlighted some of the higher percents. What you can see is that in the 1970s and 1980s Cambridge and UCL dominate where academic archaeologists get their degrees,  50% and 40%. I find it interesting that since the 1980’s where people receive their degrees has diversified greatly and in that time no one school of thought has come to dominate or replace post-processual thought. It might be that being in close proximity to each other places a huge role it how people think. It might be a coincidence but I tend not to believe in those. What this looks like to me is that a few decades ago a small number of schools dominated archaeology and to be on top of archaeology one simply had to be at those schools. However, now that power is not as concentrated no one group of thought can dominate archaeology. I wonder if I looked at the US and processualism if the results would be the same?

Of side note you can also see where some schools have done well recently with capturing up to 10%+ of the academic positions available and the slow decline in the influence of Cambridge.

These numbers are not perfect, but you can see from the list of faculty with the known degrees but unknown times follows the above distribution fairly closely, which would indicate that these numbers are pretty close to reality.

Birmingham 1
Bradford 2
Bristol 2
Cambridge           14
Durham 5
Edinburgh 1
Exeter 1
Glasgow 3
Hull 3
Lancaster 1
Leeds 1
Leicester 2
Liverpool 1
Manchester 1
Newcastle 1
Oxford 9
Reading 4
Sheffield 4
Southampton 2
St. Andrews 1
Swansea 1
UCL 11
York 3
Other 17