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How it all started

In the beginning

In spring 2006, the founding director of the Reinvention Centre, Mike Neary (now Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln) and colleagues from the Reinvention Centre began the process of recruiting a team of enthusiastic people to produce a documentary film. Together with undergraduate students in the Department of Sociology at Warwick University, Mike had already been involved in the research and production of Universities PLC?. This film had been an important and successful experiment in collaboration, student led research and in the production of a great resource for getting people talking and thinking critically about the role and function of the University in the 21st Century.

There were to be some key differences between the production of Universities PLC? and the new Students at Work film. Primarily, these were around a more limited budget and the skilling of the students to undertake as much of the technical work of making the film as possible. So whilst we had some external input in the form of training and support with the final editing, the majority of the camera work and editing decisions were undertaken by the members of the film team. This made the process much harder, and much longer! It has also contributed to a less 'polished' final product.

Why 'work'?

The subject of the film comes out of some of the key concerns which face us as students and academics in the contemporary university. We began our discussions with a series of critical questions:

  • What is, or should be, the role of the university?
  • In the context of neo-liberalism and the 'knowledge economy', what is the value of a university education?
  • How are students positioned within Higher Education: as consumers in an educational market-place, or as scholars learning critical skills and generating ideas and knowledges?

We discussed the role of paid labour as the organising principle within a capitalist economic system, and the relationship between the labour market and the university. Located, as we all are (in different ways), within the middle of these systems, our discussions were complex and challenging. They led us to Students at Work, a film firmly located within the surroundings of the university (most of the filming was done at the Unviersites of Warwick and Oxford Brookes, with some shots taken elsewhere when the students were visiting interviewees at other locations). The footage therefore reflects, and deals with, some of the conditions of studying and working within contemporary higher education.

The Process: Students at Work

This is a film about Students at Work produced by students at work.

Why a film on students in the university?

Rationale for doing the film:
  • Students becoming an increasingly vulnerable group
  • Implementation of top-up fees was announced at the time we started the film
  • More and more students studying and working at the same time
  • The university becoming increasingly vocational - students' vocationalism
  • We wanted to look behind all of this and suggest critical alternatives



Camera training with Mark Scriven in the Reinvention Centre at Westwood before its refurbishment in spring 2006.


Film team discuss logo in the refurbished Reinvention Centre in 2007