Three-D Issue 18: Chair’s report

Sue Thornham
University of Sussex

This issue of Three-D features reports on the excellent 2012 conference held at the University of Bedfordshire, as well as photos of some of its academic and less academic highlights. You can also see the shape that next year’s conference will take, when it will be hosted by the University of Ulster at its Derry campus.

Since Derry will be the 2013 UK City of Culture and the conference will be supported by the City of Culture team, this makes for a particularly exciting and wide-ranging event, as you can see from Máire Messenger Davies’ account on pages 3-5. As usual, the conference will also have key contributions on issues of more practical concern – next year the 2014 REF. You’ll find an initial report on REF progress in this issue from Peter Golding, Chair of sub-panel 36 (see page 21).

Once again, too, we have accounts of the work that MeCCSA’s networks have been doing throughout the year. It’s particularly worth mentioning here the postgraduate network (see page 28). The network, its conference and its journal are crucial in ensuring the continuing vitality and development of our field. In the last issue I recorded our thanks to the HEA Arts, Design and Media Subject Centre for the support it had given to the network since its inception. It is particularly pleasing to be able to report here that despite the disappearance of the national subject centres the HEA will continue this support, with the help of the new Discipline Lead for Media and Communications, John Mundy.

This issue also continues our involvement in political debate. One focus here is on the Leveson Inquiry and the urgent need for media reform, and you can see from the report from the MeCCSA Policy Network (see page 23) not only how MeCCSA has been involved in these debates and campaigns but also how you can contribute to them.

We also continue to report on the changes to HE funding and their consequences for both universities in general and our subject field in particular. The future of postgraduate funding remains uncertain, with the Government continuing to postpone any decisions. In the case of undergraduates, as applicants make their final university choices over the next few months we will get a better idea of just what the effect of the funding changes will be for departments in our field. But it is already clear that, along with arts and social science subjects in general, many have been badly hit by the fall in applications. If your department is in this situation, please do let us know.

At the AGM in January we considered the challenges that this very different external environment poses for a subject association like MeCCSA. Stuart Laing, PVC at Brighton and outgoing head of the ADM Subject Centre, presented us with his own list of 12 challenges, which is reprinted here. Some of them of course are familiar territory – MeCCSA has always been centrally concerned with supporting research within our fields, in practice as well as more traditional forms, and in nurturing both present and future scholars working across those fields. Others however – like the need to maintain the kind of knowledge of the sector that the Subject Centre would once have gathered, the need to establish effective links with schools and FE colleges, the need to concern ourselves with pedagogies and to provide public evidence of our field’s successes after 20 years of producing graduates – are less familiar. In the past we might have assumed that others were doing these things. It is clear, however, that we now need to take on some of these roles, and the 2012 Executive Committee is addressing the challenges that Stuart’s paper presented. We shall continue to report back on progress.

The 12 tasks we face

At the MeCCSA AGM Stuart Laing noted twelve challenges we are facing:

  1. Subject benchmark/curriculum oversight
  2. Surveys/knowledge of the MeCCSA HE sector
  3. Observatory function – what is happening and why
  4. Supporting and nurturing the next generation of scholars
  5. MeCCSA subjects in schools/FE/adult education – support and awareness
  6. Managing public perceptions – why it matters
  7. Conceptualising and relating to externalities – creative and cultural industries/users
  8. Understanding and advancing the public interest
  9. National separations – the four nations
  10. International relations
  11. Graduation successes – MeCCSA graduates after 20 years
  12. HE pedagogies and media transactions – education and communication – Independent inquiry and common discussion

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