Three-D Issue 33: Chair’s report

Anita Biressi
University of Roehampton

There has been no shortage of MeCCSA business since my last report of which the outline to follow is only an indication. We continue to defend our discipline against the mainstream media’s lazy, derogatory stereotyping of media studies as a worthless or easy subject and of media studies students as dupes or drifters. Career advice websites aimed at the young and entrepreneurial continue to list media or communications studies as among the top ten ‘pointless degrees’ alongside the liberal arts, fashion and catering. The legacy media is no better. Earlier this year, we wrote to both the producer of BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and Angela Rayner MP to protest the insulting remarks made by John Humphrys during an interview on the 14th August 2019. On 10th October 2019 MeCCSA’s Secretary and Vice Chair followed up with a piece for the Times Higher Education Supplement stressing that ‘media studies has become among the most successful and internationally well regarded subjects in UK higher education….requiring extensive reading and rigorous understanding of methods of investigation and analysis…’

Moving onto research, the MeCCSA Executive Committee (EC) continues to monitor the low level of applications from our disciplines for ESRC funding and we are planning how best to develop resources and tools which will help members overcome obstacles to application and overturn related myths about the ESRC’s (ir)relevance to our field. Research autonomy was also to the fore when EC member John Downey responded, on our behalf, to the recent Government Prevent Strategy Review’s call for evidence. As we all know, Prevent intends to ‘reduce the possibility of radicalisation’ and places a statuary duty on universities to deliver this. While this review was intended to investigate how effectively Prevent is delivered at local and national levels, we used this opportunity to stress the threat which Prevent itself offers to intellectual inquiry and academic freedom. You can find our full response in this issue of Three-D and our website.

Finally, I’m writing this report on the brink of the new year, in the wake of eight days of industrial action conducted by the University and College Union and just a few days ahead of the General Election. The MeCCSA Executive Committee decided that it wanted to support the values motivating the actions taken by many of our members and therefore required that all badged MeCCSA events falling within this period should be rescheduled or even cancelled if this was the only option. This was a difficult decision bearing in mind the huge amount of time and preparation involved in organising or contributing to symposia and other activities and we thank everyone for their cooperation. The fact that MeCCSA Networks and other MeCCSA members run so many valuable events every year itself testifies to the tremendous energy, good will and commitment to service which academics demonstrate over and above that contracted by our individual employers.

Regarding the Election, those following the various parties’ manifesto pledges on Higher Education will know that some parties have made clear policy statements while others have remained tight-lipped. There are a lot of unknowns and some indications that matters of ongoing concern, such as the possible implementation of the recommendations of the Augur Review, may remain on the table depending on who comes to power in 2020. The results will soon tell us whether the Higher Education landscape will undergo radical progressive change with regards to student fees, maintenance grants, research investment and support for international research collaboration. Or not. No doubt, we will have a lot to discuss at our January 2020 conference at the University of Brighton. On that note, let me be the first to wish us all a Happy New Year!

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