HEFCE Consultation paper 2003/42: A preliminary response
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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
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
The following examples illustrate the nature and extent
of above normal costs that must be met by diverse teaching
departments in this field.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.