Three-D Issue 32: Chair’s report

Anita Biressi
University of Roehampton

MeCCSA has been very busy since my last report in December 2018. In January 2019 we began the year by welcoming new members to the Executive Committee (EC) and allocating roles and duties. Many of these roles are demanding of time and energy and we thank everyone for their dedication. We also took this opportunity to review the composition of the EC and to think about ways to expand the diversity of the Committee. Putting oneself forward for time-consuming committee work may not be very appealing in these busy times and it was agreed that we should do everything possible to reassure potential candidates of the benefits of election and of our support for EC members to attend meetings. To this end I met with the Chair of the Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Network to establish an action plan to encourage nominations and we know that other Networks too will be reaching out later in the year to encourage members to go forward. If you think you could contribute to our committee work but would like to know more before you commit yourself to going forward for Election please do contact me for a chat.

Other business includes our efforts at lobbying for the requirement that the RCUK be an inclusive funder which actively invites bids from disciplines and institutions that may not historically have benefitted from funding. We continue to encourage members to participate as bidders and reviewers for Research Council Funding. Most recently, we drew members’ attention to the invitation for people with expertise in media studies, digital media or research methods to join the ESRC Grants Assessment Panel. Members who have applied are invited to inform us of the outcome or to give us any feedback on the process so that we can keep an eye on the process.

In February 2019 we also responded to the independent review of the TEF. We made observations regarding the validity and effects of current TEF practices and directly questioned any assumption that judging the quality of teaching provision by the median incomes of graduating students is appropriate. We suggested that this type of category error and emphasis on employment rates and earnings risks underplaying the value of a good education as measured by knowledge, understanding and general enrichment.

Policy Watch Issues

When I wrote my last report the Augar Review was on the horizon and I observed that we might be entering a new era of market turbulence which would negatively impact on student fees for non-STEM courses. Following its publication, the EC noted the Review’s insistent ‘economistic’ understanding of education and the worrying use of phrases like ‘low value degrees’ and how this prejudicial attitude might affect our field and especially those teaching in post-1992 institutions . While the recommendations of the Review have been parked for the moment we know that some universities are preparing for a scenario in which money will be re-distributed towards institutions and courses which Government believes are costlier (such as science) or strategically more important for economic prosperity and away from others judged to be less worthwhile. We will continue to keep developments under review and take part in any future consultations.

On a more positive note , I’ll end by thanking the January 2019 hosts of our annual conference at the University of Stirling for a wonderful event. 2020 will be hosted by the University of Brighton and 2021 by Robert Gordon University. Thanks to those institutions who submitted proposals to work with us in 2022, and we are pleased to announce that Falmouth University will be hosting.

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