Three-D Issue 24: Chair’s report

FentonNatalie Fenton
Goldsmiths, University of London

It’s nearly Spring and the General Election is on the horizon. The next few weeks will be a field day for political communications – will there be a televised debate with all the political parties? Who will make the biggest publicity gaff and which party will work the Twitter-sphere the best? This election will be a communication storm.

The outcome will also hold some crucial decisions for Higher Education and for MeCCSA subject areas. If Labour are part of the next Government their £6,000 tuition fee pledge may become a reality – good news for students but it is still unclear what Labour would do with the research budget. The sector is also getting anxious that such a policy will make the transition year desperately unattractive to students – who will want to pay £9k in 2016 when they could pay £3k a year less a year later? One thing we can be sure of is that uncertainty about University budgets is set to remain part of University life for some time to come.

As MeCCSA publish a research report into the impact of higher education policy on the work, practices and constitution of departments in our fields the issues it reveals offer much food for thought. Although our subject areas are in general recruiting well they don’t always receive the corresponding support from institutions whose focus is firmly pinned on recruitment and marketing.

In a popular field MeCCSA academics are being encouraged to spend more time trying to recruit students who are (understandably) increasingly interested in how they will get a decent job at the end of their degree and pay off the huge loans they have amassed. This is changing the subjects we teach and our students’ attitudes to knowledge.

I would encourage you all to read the report in full and use it where you can within your institutions both to show them how our subject areas are thriving but also to point out the real dangers of a highly marketized and commodified system.

Meanwhile, media and communications research were shown in the recently published results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) to be outstandingly strong in UK universities. The published overview for the field notes that roughly two-thirds of the work assessed was world-leading or internationally excellent. The overview report also draws attention to the exceptionally strong impact demonstrated by research in these fields.

Finally a huge thank you to the organizing team of the 2015 MeCCSA conference in Northumbria for an enormously successful and enjoyable few days. Do get your abstract ready for next year’s conference at Canterbury Christ Church University – it would be great to see you there!

Posted by Auguste Janutaite