A quick surf around certain bits of blogland and / or the inbox at the moment gives a few things to think about…largely, but not exclusively relating to academia….and also to the F Word (feminism).
Head into the Heavens has decided to blog some of her previous academic work, including her undergrad dis on “Feminist Fandom: Exploring the precarious relationship between third-wave feminism and television, with reference to Sex and the City and The L Word.” Have to say that anything bringing in Sex and the City and The L Word is going to be interesting to me, but maybe because I have way too much time for certain types of US dramas.
As an undergrad dissertation it shows the passion which a first degree can generate, which is what often leads onto the desire to study the subject further at post-grad level. This is why the recent decision of the Univeristy of Sheffield, (reported by Maggi Dawn and others) to take the axe away from their undergrad Biblical Studies course is really important.
The move onto post-grad study though is not easy and not getting easier. Too often the funding is a major issue, an obsticle which cannot be overcome easily. I have been lucky and stupid in equal measure I think. Others are more sensible and find part-time study the only way to fulfil their potential when they discover they can’t get funding to go full time. The goal posts for funding are constantly changing according to the whims (sorry recommendations) of the research councils. The newest consideration to be taken into account is “impact”. This is something which Feminist Philosophers have been discussing. The writer here comes to the conclusion that the government should fund only on academic excellence. This is a difficult one for me, being aware that my “non standard profile” particularly not having achieved a first (or indeed a 2:1) in my undergrad degree was one of the major reasons I could not achieve funding. However, when I see extremely talented students like the writer of this blog forced to go part-time because of not being allocated funding I have to say I get angry and can see the value of this petition.
In terms of what impact means, well it’s one of those buzz words which is easier to say than to measure. Academia and good academics are important, just as are interpreters, entrepreneurs and other people who might gather in “the public square” to debate, network and influence each other. Whilst I am not a huge fan of “academic loans” as somebody who has taken one out this year to finance my study I have to say I can see their place and importance. Whilst we are seeking to get personal debt under-control and stop students taking on ridiculous amounts the way US students particularly are able to obtain them in a way that UK students aren’t is creating an uneven playing field. If we want British academia to flourish we need to sort out the post-grad funding system, as much as the under-grad. Throughout the country we have world class departments who are not getting exceptional potential full time students because of this funding issue.