Category: Academic Life

‘Influx of New University Presses’ — change accelerating in academic publishing.

‘Influx of New University Presses’ — change accelerating in academic publishing.

The University of Westminster Press features in a recent survey article published by Research Information on aspects of the changes affecting scholarly communications and university press publishing,

The full article also draws on perspectives from Cambridge University Press, the University of Michigan Press and Bristol University Press as well as comments from UWP Press Manager, Andrew Lockett who explained some of the reasons for the grown in ‘New University Presses’ including demand from academics, the Research Excellence Framework and ‘the frustration in the library sector that wanted more opportunities to publish on behalf of academics, and a growing confidence from senior librarians that they could have a role in these activities’

Since the article was researched UWP views and downloads have increased from those reported in the article by a further 60,000 or 17% in a matter of weeks indicating the potential for momentum once a New University Press is under way.

Setting up a University Press in the Digital Age Revisited

Setting up a University Press in the Digital Age Revisited

One of the questions we have been asked about establishing a new university press is ‘how long does it take’? So we have recently reviewed on our history and experience detailing the University of Westminster Press timeline below. Here was the view in September 2015, four months after UWP’s website launch about what might be involved, which seems a lifetime away now that our second and rather substantial 2019 catalogue has recently been released in April 2019.

Some tentative conclusions to the question are presented below – based also on anecdotal evidence from our peers – as well as UWP’s experience. They suggest some pointers for others considering setting up a comparable operation and one overall conclusion: early stages take a long time (and the wheels can grind a bit here) but then momentum grows.

  1. The early stages of a new UP tend to take a long time. We’d hazard a guess that 18-21 months+ would not be unusual.
  2. Governance and internal procedures may need to be reconsidered at an early stage and then clarified again in the light of actual experience.
  3. There should be alignment between budgets and academics’/stakeholder expectations and that relevant linkages between the two (ideally) should be clearly made at operational and strategic levels, not just one of those.
  4. It is useful to have publisher and librarian experience to tap into but harder to ensure in practice that both are available in one person or across a team.
  5. Universities (like all operations) frequently restructure and this can affect (2) or be really crucial in moving things forward (in our case) or holding them back.
  6. Once out of first gear where considerable push may be needed, progress can be rapid.
  7. Never underestimate the importance of tangible products (aka books) in manifesting a presence that colleagues and external parties see. Not even a gleaming and functional website can do this.
  8. Plans need to be revised on a regular basis. And even six months is currently proving to be a long time in the world of scholarly communications and digital-first open access publishing.

7 May 2014. University agrees basic arrangements to establish a new open access digital press.

10 September 2014 A University Steering Group approves the governance structure and principles for operation of the University of Westminster Press including peer review protocols and the composition and remit of its Editorial Board. UWP is founded as a department within the University.

23 February 2015 UWP’s first and only employee starts.

12 May 2015 UWP’s website goes live for the first time.

15 September 2015 First journal issue from UWP published, Vol 10.1 of Westminster Papers in Communication.

10 October 2016 UWP publishes first book title: Critical Theory of Communication

14 November 2016 UWP becomes part of a new Research and Scholarly Communications team; on 1 August 2018 this with UWP becomes part of Library and Archive Services, within the Student and Academic Services directorate in the university’s new structure.

17 November 2017 UWP issues first catalogue. 

14 December 2017 Revised terms of reference for the UWP board and governance of UWP are tabled and shortly after formally approved.

8 October 2018: 250,000 views and downloads of books, chapters and journal articles reached.

8 April 2019 UWP issues 2019 catalogue with 19 books and 11 journal issues published and with 15 new titles forthcoming previously unannounced . By this time over 350,000 views and downloads had been achieved.

Evacuation from Regent Street: All in it Together?

Evacuation from Regent Street: All in it Together?

In an extract from Mark Clapson’s new book The Blitz Companion: Aerial Warfare, Civilians and the City Since 1911 the experience of Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) students leaving London for the countryside are described. The book is available open access in all digital formats.

The illustration marks another theme of the book – the belated recognition of the sacrifice of women within the UK’s war effort; the monument in Whitehall to ‘Women of World War Two’ unveiled in 2005.

“The declaration of war on Germany by Chamberlain on 3 ­September 1939 was preceded by a mass evacuation of children from London and other large cities. Over four thousand children went overseas, but most were moved elsewhere in Britain to so-called ‘reception towns’ in safe areas away from bombing routes. In all over 3.5 million people, most of them children, were dispersed from the largest cities. From 1–2 September already rehearsed plans for evacuation were put into place across the country. Local authorities were responsible for organising this mass movement, coordinated from schools and other places of education.

The experiences of young men and women at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) in the heart of London provide a fascinating case study of evacuation, and glimpses into the everyday perceptions of evacuees. The auxiliary Secondary School and Craft Schools at the Poly, located in other sites close to the base at Regent Street, provided occupational training and apprenticeships for children and teenagers. A breezy report in the Polytechnic Magazine for September 1940 on the evacuation of the Craft Schools was both proud and relieved at the safe removal of children, but it was clear the process was not as straightforward as it could have been:

From various sources, chiefly the wireless, the staff and pupils of the Craft Schools heard that at last it had happened, and that the once hypothetical evacuation was to be carried out. We duly assembled at the Great Portland Street Extension on Friday, September 1st, completely equipped with luggage and gas masks, the boys having been previously well informed as to the amount of luggage, etc., required. The boys were very cheerful and there were obvious signs of disappointment when we learnt from the LCC Evacuation Officer that it would be impossible to move us on that day. We were therefore told to go back home and return on the morrow at the same hour—8.30 a.m. The next day, Saturday, the numbers in our ranks had increased, and we moved off in earnest by bus from Oxford Circus to the Holborn Underground entrance. There were a few mothers to see the boys off, but the partings seemed quite cheerful, and in spite of the serious international situation quite a holiday spirit prevailed. At Holborn we were compelled to wait for some time, and in order to avoid congestion at the railway station we spent this time at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in Southampton Row. We eventually entrained for Ealing Broadway, and on arrival, were speedily transferred to the train for ‘somewhere in England.’ We had a comfortable journey with plenty of room and you can imagine our delight when we learned that we were going in the vicinity of the famous Cheddar Gorge and right into the ‘Heart of Mendip’. We got out of the train at Cheddar Station, and after waiting some considerable time were conveyed by buses to our destination—Winscombe, a beautiful village nestling at the foot of the Mendip Hills.5

A later report on the experiences of the boys and girls coming to terms with life a long way from London, while generally upbeat, admitted that some schooling time was being lost. Young people in country towns or urban areas had more to stimulate them in common with the types of lives they had led in London, while those in small villages or hamlets had to make their own fun, and become more self-reliant, something viewed as a positive consequence of evacuation. The report then made a claim about social class mixing that became a key theme in the so-called ‘myth of the Blitz’:

Some of the boys are billeted in palatial homes, whilst others may be living in homes not quite up to the standard of their own, but all are fortunate in having comfortable dwellings with fairly modern conveniences. This will have the effect of showing how different classes of people live, and should be invaluable to them in later life, whether or not they become leaders in industry, professional men, or members of the working classes.5

Denied a normal full-time education, this was a kind of ‘Polytechnic of Life’ experience, increasing sensitivities across class divisions, while preparing the young for their future occupational roles in the British class system.

The nationwide evacuation scheme was voluntary, and ­working-class parents such as those of the young students at the Poly took advantage of the local authority educational schemes and the arrangements offered by the Poly itself. Middle-class parents, by contrast, sent their offspring to live with friends and relatives elsewhere in the country. The lack of compulsion in the evacuation process was symptomatic of the strength of democracy but also an internal weakness. By December 1939 many young people from all across Britain, not only from the Poly, had returned home for Christmas, often to the annoyance and frustration of the authorities who wished to keep them in the relative safety of the reception areas. The so-called ‘Phoney War’, a distinct lack of military action on the Home Front, explained why many people wanted to go back home. So too, of course, did homesickness and a longing to be with family and friends in the old neighbourhood. During the early months of 1940 many evacuees trickled back home. It would take the sea-borne heroics at Dunkirk in May, and the Battle of Britain in the spring and summer of 1940, to shake them out of their complacency”.

Radical Politics in the City of Oxford – new history published

Radical Politics in the City of Oxford – new history published

The Labour Party nationally however continues to be divided between those who are prepared and often ambitious to take on the responsibilities of government, and those who prefer to maintain a critical position outside ‘the system’. The dilemma in progressive politics between responsibility and protest is as critical at a local level as it is at the national level. Duncan Bowie

UWP’s latest history title outlines a complex and lengthy history of socialist, radical and communist politics in the UK city of Oxford.

Available to download read and dip into the story is a fascinating one of many twists and turns, characters and issues against the backdrop of a university town.

History of University of Westminster series – all titles available open access

History of University of Westminster series – all titles available open access

The History of the University of Westminster in 5 volumes is now available as five separate free PDF downloads of each title for interested parties.

The final volume Educating for Professional Life: Twenty-Five Years of the University of Westminster is now distributed digitally by the University of Westminster Press.

All books are superbly illustrated courtesy of the work of the University’s Archive Services team so it may even be better to consider buying as (discounted) hard copies for staff, students and alumni). All University of Westminster Press published book titles are made available open access digitally.

 

 

Multitasking: Teaching, Fiction, Research by Paul Breen

Multitasking: Teaching, Fiction, Research by Paul Breen

Novelist, educator, researcher and UWP author Paul Breen of the University of Westminster  (above undertaking radio media work) is our guest blogger today. He reflects on the principles underlying his own varied multitasking in academic life. 

For me, every form of writing is a journey. It begins with the spark of an idea, and progresses to a plan of action. Usually, I create a working title in my mind, then sketch a rough itinerary of the course I want to travel with a particular story or article that I’m working on. Then, to get me through the itinerary, I draw on a range of skills carefully developed over time to help me in writing, which like teaching, is a continuously developing craft.

Regardless of genre, I apply these principles almost universally. However, there are very clear differences in the various types of writing activities that I have been engaged in over these past few years. Since 2014 I have had two works of fiction published, and a number of academic works, including one edited collection of chapters and a recent publication in the area of teacher development with University of Westminster Press. Some might see this as trying to be a jack of all trades but I would argue that all of these works are drawn from the same knowledge base that shapes the singular craft of writing.

Each form of output has been different in its own way but the same underlying principles have shaped each one. Though different genres have different expectations, they share common ground. Firstly, research plays a vital role in laying the foundations for the writing journey. Though this plays a more substantial part in the academic domain, it also makes an important contribution to fiction. When I was working on my first book, The Charlton Men published by Thames River Press, I carried out so much background research on a combination of sporting and cultural events that now, half a dozen years later, my memory plays tricks on me. When I look back on the London riots that feature in the book, for example, I see them not just through my own eyes but those of my characters too.

Once the research has been done, in any domain, the next essential part of the plot, so to speak, is the power of storytelling. For example, Robert Yin, best known for his work in the area of qualitative research, likens the research journey to that of Christopher Columbus voyaging to the New World. This, for me, is a powerful image that I sometimes use in my own reporting of educational research.

Increasingly too, as academics, we also need to disseminate our message to a wider audience and do that in a way that never dumbs down the most important aspects of our research. For example, some of my most recent research as been on political identities in Northern Ireland, which began as a spin-off from studying teacher identities. As Northern Ireland is a hot topic right now because of Brexit, this often means writing for the popular media and here again, there is a need to draw on the same set of skills whilst producing content in a very different genre. That requires other skills too, such as critical thinking, creativity and editing ability.

Perhaps most difficult of all is the ability to express complex ideas in a simple language. Admittedly, this was one of my own greatest weaknesses at the start of my writing career, and one that I am still working on. That’s because writing, like teaching, is a craft which can never be perfected. We move along a professional continuum of skills and knowledge that is never quite completed, as I discuss in my most recent publication. This then is where teaching connects and indeed is threaded through my work in these different areas of writing. In the teacher education classroom, where I am primarily working at the moment, I draw on many of the same skills that I employ in my writing – creativity, research, storytelling, adaptability, organisation – and try to encourage my teacher trainees to do the same in their work. This is partly why I am such a passionate advocate of technology in the classroom, since new technologies are such a powerful medium for developing resources, sharing knowledge, accessing information and communicating ideas.

Here too, teaching and teacher education are part of a journey, one that is developmental but also inextricably linked with self-identity and the story of the self. Every student that I teach has their own story as people and as prospective teachers. Drawing on their own personalities and their own knowledge base in the classroom can make them better educators. To conclude then, maybe the ultimate comparison between teaching and writing – at least in the fictional sense – is that character is central to everything. Ultimately too, I would hope that the strongest characters I shape are the trainee teachers who pass through my classroom in the real world. Or pass through my classroom and then go out into the real world of their own classrooms using skills and knowledge I have helped them develop.

PAUL BREEN is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Westminster currently teaching on the MA TESOL teacher education course, and recent author of Developing Educators for the Digital Age, published by University of Westminster Press. Paul is on Twitter, in a personal capacity, @CharltonMen