Naomi Falkenburg, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick
These are difficult and uncertain times for higher education and academic research. In the UK, as elsewhere, cuts to public funding are having a profound effect on the structure of the higher education system (EUA, 2011). Teaching budgets have been slashed, with the expectation that raised tuition fees and increased competition between institutions will cover the shortfall, and there are concerns that social mobility will be an 'unintended victim' of reforms (HEPI, 2011). The public funding that is available has become increasingly targeted to 'strategically important' subjects (HEFCE, 2011). The UK research councils are likewise facing cuts to their budgets and changes to the way they allocate funds.
These shifting socio-political and economic conditions will undoubtedly reframe and reinvigorate existing discussions about the nature and future of higher education and academic research. How do competing notions of utility and progress affect the development of higher education institutions (HEIs) and academic research? How much autonomy should HEIs have? What would the implications of a competitive market-based restructuring of HEIs be? More specifically, how would such a change impact the already contested relationship between teaching and research in these institutions?
The answers to these enduring questions will always be incomplete and the solutions imperfect. The extent of current changes to the higher education sector are arguably unprecedented, but this is certainly not the first time (and it will not be the last) that the sector has faced funding cuts, increased fees, or privatisation. Indeed, no university, research council or governmental institution is ever fully formed, nor are their policies and practices fixed. Rather, they participate in a continuous conversation about these timeless questions and are adaptive and creative in the ways they effect and respond to change.
We have previously noted how undergraduate researchers face specific and considerable challenges because of 'limited time, knowledge, encouragement, skills, and resources' (Lambert and Metcalfe, 2009), yet the continued success of journals like Reinvention is testament to their ability to adapt to these obstacles and surmount them in creative and original ways. Recent national and international initiatives as well as institutional changes within the journal are likewise testament to the adaptability and creativity of undergraduate research as a larger endeavour. They also demonstrate the importance of sustaining a continuous conversation about undergraduate research at every level: individuals engaging in its creation and dissemination contribute to institutional dialogues, which slot into national conversations that form part of global discussions. All these levels are linked, supporting and affecting each other. An understanding of this dynamic has formed part of Reinvention's ethos since its inception and informs the journal's development and activities on each of these levels.
Preparations are currently underway for the second British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR), which will be hosted by the University of Warwick on 19-20 March 2012, and we look forward to publishing another special issue in support of this national project. In its call for papers, BCUR promotes 'a broad view of what research is to include all enquiry-based work including creative projects', and encourages its participants to share their research through various media, including poster presentations, spoken papers, exhibitions, performances and film. The conference will continue to accept undergraduate-only submissions as well as student-staff collaborative presentations from any discipline, with a deadline for submissions of 4 December 2011. BCUR is actively encouraging the conversation about undergraduate research by calling for papers based on research or case studies about its introduction into curricula. Alongside the main conference, staff will also be discussing the latest developments regarding undergraduate research in UK universities and the BCUR steering group will hold an open meeting to discuss the future of the conference.
Reinvention is also currently involved in two projects with a more pronounced international element. We are presently vetting undergraduate submissions made to the Future Leaders project organised by the Warwick Economics Summit. The summit, which is one of the largest student-run conferences in Europe and welcomes participants from around the world, will be held 18-20 February 2012 at the University of Warwick (more information can be found at www.warwickeconomicssummit.com/2012/futureleaders). The best three papers submitted to the Future Leaders project will receive a cash prize from the summit, and all papers meeting the appropriate academic standards will be published in the April 2012 edition of Reinvention. We will continue to accept submissions for the competition until November 15 2011.
We have also recently contributed to a forthcoming publication for the United States-based Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), entitled How to Publish a Journal of Undergraduate Research. We hope this guide will inspire and facilitate the creation of other journals of undergraduate research around the world, and will contribute to the larger conversation about undergraduate research.
Present institutional developments within the journal highlight several themes that we have already touched upon. The journal is now managed by the third reincarnation of its student editorial team; comprising members from three different nationalities and four academic fields, its composition reflects how internationalism and multidisciplinarity play a key role in the journal's operation.
We are also extremely pleased to announce that we have established a collaborative partnership with Monash University in Australia. This is a milestone in the history of the journal, which began its life based at two universities in the UK and is now spread over two continents. As our relationship with Monash develops, it will undoubtedly impact the way Reinvention experiences the different levels of undergraduate research – the individual, institutional, national, and international – and their interaction. We are confident that this partnership will add new voices and creative ideas to the conversation about undergraduate research, and shape the way Reinvention will adapt to future developments resulting from this discussion.
We look forward to sharing more details about the partnership in future editorials, but for the time being it is my distinct pleasure to introduce our first article from Monash in this issue of Reinvention, an issue which demonstrates the diversity of undergraduate research worldwide. Diane Brown and colleagues explore notions of masculinity through an investigation of Emo subculture on MySpace, concluding that Emo identity allows young males to defy stereotypical gender discourses. Nooriya Uddin and Mary Howard (UCL) likewise employ qualitative research methods, but gear these towards an examination of patients' perceptions of living with psoriasis and the care they receive from their GPs. Ian Garner (Teesside University) looks at masculinity and perceptions of another topical medical problem: through a novel application of Q-methodology he investigates how masculine behaviours and values might inform the ways in which young males understand testicular cancer and testicular self-examination. Christopher Bush and colleagues (University of Michigan), meanwhile, employ a variety of methods to further our understanding of the function of prion protein, examining the role it plays in the vascular system. Viktorie Sevcenko (Warwick University) continues her enquiry into the impact of the Federation of Small Businesses on the survival of new small firms, questioning whether the interests of these firms can be represented by a single interest group (to date, Viktorie is the only author to have been published twice in Reinvention).
Finally, we publish our second book review, in which our staff-student pairing of Glen O'Hara (Oxford Brookes University) and Daniel Parr (Monash University) discuss the history of the revolutionary American republic in Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles: the Loss of America and the remaking of the British Empire.
BCUR (2011), Call for Papers – BCUR 2012, available at http://www.bcur.org/about-bcur/, accessed 16 October 2011
Bekhradnia, B. and J. Thompson(2011), '"Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System" – an Analysis of the Higher Education White Paper', The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), available at http://www.hepi.ac.uk/files/White%20Paper%20analysis%20summary%20report%20-%20Final.pdf, accessed 14 October 2011
Higher Education Funding Council for England (2011), Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects: the HEFCE advisory group's 2010-11 report, available at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2011/11_24/11_24.pdf, accessed 14 October 2011
Lambert, C. and D. Metcalfe(2009), 'Editorial: The Importance of Great Expectations', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 2, Issue 1, available at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/archive/volume2issue1/Editorial, accessed 16 October 2011
European University Association (2010), Impact of the Economic Crisis on European Higher Education Institutions, available at http://www.eua.be/Libraries/Governance_Autonomy_Funding/Impact_economic_crisis_October_2010.sflb.ashx, accessed 14 October 2011
To cite this paper please use the following details: Falkenburg, N. (2011), 'Editorial: Adaptability and Creativity', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 4, Issue 2, http://www.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/archive/volume4issue2/editorial Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal at warwick dot ac dot uk.