5.4 Education and the national universities

Any review of stereotypically ‘Scottish’ traits today would include an unusual  emphasis on the quality of individual education, and the reality behind this particular form of personal empowerment can be seen in the wide establishment of medieval grammar schools and the fact that for many centuries Scotland had more universities than England. The archaeology of educational institutions is a much-neglected field, though one that is opening up in the United States as universities begin to excavate their campuses (Skowronek and Lewis 2010). Few of the Scottish national universities have seriously explored their past through excavation and survey as opposed to archive study. The archaeology of medieval schools has been similarly overlooked, again with academic potential in their links with modern-day successors. The huge potential for the interdisciplinary analysis of medieval education has recently been demonstrated on a Europe-wide (including the UK) scale for the later medieval period by Willemsen (2008). In a fruitful combination of excavated material and sites with artistic and literary depictions of the period, Willemsen sheds fascinating and invaluable new light on the daily experience of education from both the perspective of the pupil and the teacher. It is particularly important in promoting the importance of school as a life-phase and childhood as an important area of study.

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