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Unit information: Arts Students Count in 2015/16

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Unit name Arts Students Count
Unit code AFAC10004
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Middleton
Open unit status Open




School/department Arts Faculty Office
Faculty Faculty of Arts


'Measurement is a necessary but not sufficient condition for civilisation to exist' (Brignell 2000, p. 7). Numbers envelop us, but too many who consider themselves otherwise well-educated are not comfortable with that embrace. This unit introduces arts and humanities students to essential skills in numeracy first by investigating the ‘numerical turn’ (beginning with the Victorian ‘statistical movement’) in various arts subjects, enabling students to understand why quantification became important for the development of these disciplines. Students will then have an opportunity to work in small groups with a tutor on a project which assembles a dataset and uses basic statistics to answer a research question. Students will be familiarised with important resources such as the the British Historical Statistics Project.

The unit aims:

  • to instruct students in how and why the liberal arts became numerical;
  • to enhance students ability to comprehend numerical data and numerical discourse; and
  • to develop good practice in data mining, processing and analysis.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have acquired the following:

  • knowledge and understanding of why arts and humanities disciplines experienced a numerical turn in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries;
  • knowledge of basic statistics, their derivation and how and when to apply;
  • development of EXCEL skills;
  • an improved critical ability to evaluate numerical discourse; and
  • independence in designing a data-based project to answer a research question

Teaching details

Weekly 2-hour lecture response session; five one-hour project workshops (capped at 5)which will include instruction and practice of Excel skills

Assessment Details

1. EXCEL competency test 10%

2. Data-based group project and presentation 40%

3. 1,500-word written follow-up report on the group project and presentation 50%

Reading and References

Brignell, J.E. (2000) Sorry, wrong number!: the abuse of numbers. Stockbridge: Brignell Associates

Crook, T. and O’Hara, G., (ed.) (2011) Statistics and the public sphere: numbers and the people in modern Britain, c.1800-2000. London: Routledge

Freeman, M. (2010) Quantitative skills for historians. Warwick: Higher Education Academy

Hudson, P. (2000) History by numbers: an introduction to quantitative approaches. London: Edward Arnold