University research in media, communications and cultural studies has been shown to be of outstanding quality, “amongst the best in the world”, according to the recently published results of the Research Excellence Framework undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies.
MeCCSA (the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association), the national subject association for the field, has welcomed the results as demonstrating the extremely high quality and social importance of research by its members and others in the area.
Research in these areas is diverse, and was assessed by more than one ‘panel’ in the exercise. Their overview reports underline the very high standard of the work examined:
- One panel found nearly 80 per cent of work submitted to it was overall of world-leading or internationally excellent quality; another observed that research demonstrated “originality and innovation in format as well as content” and “rigour in pushing at boundaries”.
- The huge social importance of these fields was repeatedly underlined in the reports. Work was shown to be engaged with local, national and international collaborators outside universities. As one panel put it, evidence showed “significant and sometimes transformative impact across communities, publics, the cultural and creative industries, policy, government and civil society”.
- These impacts included wide-ranging input into such areas as public understanding, health, education, and cultural initiatives, policy development, and technological advances. The report notes the impact case studies showed “the extraordinary contribution made by research in our disciplines to audiences, artists, charities, businesses, cultural heritage, the creative industries, community organisations, and many other beneficiaries, both in the UK and around the world.”
The Chair of MeCCSA, Professor Einar Thorsen, commenting on the reports, said that “These outstanding results further highlight the importance of the field and the dangers of recent and impending cuts in their resourcing. Reductions in funding for arts, humanities, and social sciences generally, which are having a major effect on work in the areas so richly praised in the REF exercise, contradict evidence of the quality and necessity of research, and teaching, in these fields. The world of media and communication is at the heart of contemporary experience, and reductions in its scholarly and rigorous analysis are the opposite of what is required.”
Beyond the academic and social importance of this work, reductions in funding place at risk the rich and deep contribution made by researchers in our disciplines – both as practitioners (for example as directors, designers, editors, policy makers, software and technology developers) and as scholarly researchers collaborating with practitioners – to a creative industries sector that alone contributed £116 billion to the UK in 2019 (DCMS report, 19 Feb 2021).
The full results may be found at: https://ref.ac.uk/results-analysis/
The panel overview reports are at: https://www.ref.ac.uk/publications-and-reports/main-panel-overview-reports/