HEFCE Consultation paper 2003/42: a preliminary response

HEFCE Consultation paper 2003/42: A preliminary response
from MeCCSA

November 2003

  1. In 1999 the relevant subject association, then titled
    the Standing Conference on Cultural, Communication, and
    Media Studies) was consulted about the formation of an
    advisory group to assess funding for teaching in cost
    centre 30. This group, the Communication, Cultural and
    Media Studies Standing Group, subsequently met under
    the Council’s auspices to develop criteria for funding
    provision and, on a comprehensive case by case basis,
    to recommend the allocation of departments teaching in
    this field to price groups. A great deal of detailed
    work, scrutinising individual teaching programmes, resulted
    in the allocation to price groups of over 60 institutions.
    It was agreed at the time that the complexity and variety
    of the field warranted "a standing review panel" (letter
    from Julian Martin, 23 April 1999). It is extremely disturbing,
    and potentially very damaging for a field which was identified
    as a strongly growing and emerging area in the funding
    arrangements following the last Research Assessment Exercise,
    to see the proposals in the consultation paper.

  2. We would therefore strongly urge the Council to return
    to the work of that panel, and to reconsider its proposals
    in the light of that work. We would also request that,
    at the very least, the group be re-established in order
    to assess how far its conclusions merit review in the
    light of the experience of the past three academic years.

  3. Cost Centre 30 as presently constituted needs re-examination
    to ensure the FTEs it covers are in a broadly consistent
    field of activity and teaching environment. Its current
    title and constitution are clearly inappropriate.

  4. Evidence of frugal spending or of departments spending
    at levels restricted by their institution is not evidence
    of low cost. Many departments are plainly managing on
    levels of funding which result from institutional policies,
    not from the needs of the curriculum, and are able to
    sustain their provision only because of the very high
    student-staff ratios common in this field and made possible
    by its popularity among students.

  5. The Consultation analysis reveals that even on these
    findings about 13 units spend above the mean. Spend levels
    plainly vary according to the placing of departments
    on a continuum embracing very high cost practice and
    production work to lower cost mainly theoretically based
    teaching. It is vital to recognise however, that even
    the least production oriented programmes entail costs
    above the norm for ‘classroom only’ teaching.
    In order to meet the commitment in programme specifications,
    and indeed those of the QAA benchmark statement for this
    field, all programmes have substantial additional costs,
    as the examples offered below illustrate. The Benchmark
    statement notes that “Most programmes… promote
    a combination of understandings and skills. Many that
    emphasise critical engagement also require students to
    produce a substantial piece of self-managed research
    and/or a creative production or portfolio of work demonstrating
    their command of specific skills.” In addition
    students are committed to “exploring a wide range
    of materials and sources” while for many programmes “Where
    production knowledge and practice-based learning form
    a part of the programme’s curriculum and delivery strategies,
    resources should be appropriate and adequate to support
    such aims and strategies”.

  6. Under the new arrangements cost centre 30 has the highest
    normalised rate of all the D band categories. Information
    Technology (allocated to C) has a lower rate, and on
    the analysis of actual spends also has a lower median
    spend.

  7. The consultation analysis is unable to specify the range
    of particular spending commitments managed by many departments
    in this field, including the necessity of advanced, expensive
    and frequently renewed equipment; specialist and substantial
    technician support; extensive audio-visual and media
    archive resources; and involvement of external professional
    teachers.

  8. The following examples illustrate the nature and extent
    of above normal costs that must be met by diverse teaching
    departments in this field.

Example 1

Pre-92 red brick university teaching a range of theoretical
media studies courses and professionally oriented broadcast
and broadcast journalism courses incurs costs on both types
of course over and above what would be incurred on a standard
social science course. Costs incurred are not covered by
the unit of resource and include annual equipment costs of £75-100k.
The existing funding does not cover the cost of the various
teaching programmes. Such costs are only sustainable because
of the number of international postgraduates. If the Unit
of Resource is reduced this media studies department would
need to fill their courses with international rather than
home/EU students to be sustainable.

Example 2

Pre-92 University teaching theory and practice based courses.
This department has incurred costs of £50k per year
over the last three years to develop and maintain equipment
and a studio base devoted to the needs of students for production,
plus a one-off cost of £50k for a digital laboratory.
It requires two technical support staff devoted entirely
to the upkeep of studios and support for students’ practical
work; a web development officer; two production tutors and
two production managers totalling an annual cost of £130k.

Example 3

Post ’92 University teaching a range of accredited
vocational, , theory and combined vocational and theory courses
in broadcast media, general media, cultural studies and film.
All courses require and share camera TV studios and radio
studios, portable cameras and audio editing, print, audio
and broadcast newsroom facilities and video post-production
that serve 750 students. In 2000 the addition of a digital
media centre cost £700,000. In 2003 the addition of
another print newsroom cost £100,000. There are annual
maintenance and upgrade costs of £50,000. Currently,
it has six full-time technical support staff.

Example 4

Pre-92 University teaching a range of practice and theory
courses. Teaching requires television and radio studios,
film and television cameras, editing suites and high specification
computers (on a par with those required for animation). A
significant number of technical assistants work alongside
lecturers. If rebanding occurred in the manner suggested
they would be faced with having to totally re-design courses
and reduce staffing.

Example 5

Pre-92 university teaching primarily theory oriented media
studies courses. Nonetheless has had to invest between £40k
and £50k in media archives to support teaching, and
is committing £66k to specialised audio-visual equipment
for research methods teaching and support related to the
courses. Supports one FT technician to support media related
teaching and research. Additional costs met by high SSR and
international postgraduate student fees.

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