Conferences, TEF

Academic Book Trade Conference 2017 (part 1)

“Leadership and Influence in a TEF-led world”                             ABG-Conference-NEW-logo

On a sunny May 18th, more than 100 delegates came together at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon for the two-day annual Academic Book Trade Conference (formerly: APS Group Conference). This year, the conference programme focused on the Teaching Excellence Framework [TEF] and student engagement.  The conference Programme Director was my colleague Linda Bennett, of Gold Leaf, who has been organising the speaker programme since 2002 and with me is co-author of the report Resource Provision in Higher Education: Implications of the TEF and related initiatives, which was sponsored by the Booksellers Association.  A copy of the report was given to each of the conference delegates.

Outgoing chairman of the ABG Group, Scott Hamilton, gave an overview of last year’s industry figures and a review of the past year from the perspective of the ABG. The first address took the form of a conversation at which conference Chairman Richard Fisher, former MD of academic publishing at CUP, engaged a dialogue with Sir David Bell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading.

Sir David Bell

Sir David made a number of incisive points, including that the TEF was needed because universities have been slow to respond to criticism of their approach to teaching; that although some academics may not like the TEF, it is not a life-changer in the same way that the REF has been; and that although league tables, of which the TEF will now become an important one, are important drivers for university success, they are not the only drivers.

Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publisher’s Association, spoke about Publishing and Politics. He noted that there was a gap in the public’s understanding of the Book Trade industry’s role and its future and that both the PA and the BA need to lobby to make the industry’s importance more visible.

Richard Stagg, Publishing Director of Pearson, told the delegates that he saw the TEF as an opportunity for the publishing industry, as long as student’s needs and expectations were kept in mind and being met. He said very clearly that the current changes in approach are not about a transition from print to digital, but about the pedagogy behind teaching and learning and about interaction. He concluded by saying that it is the academic book trade’s responsibility to show the learning gains obtained from the content it creates, and to build new relationships.

The final keynote speaker was Peter Lake, Group Business Development Director at John Smith’s, who stressed the importance of the service element in making digital products work. He illustrated this by sharing some case studies in which service has been key to the successful use of published products. He also emphasised that the BA and the PA should lobby together, particularly on the inclusion of learning response into the next revisions of the TEF metrics.

keynotes day 1

At the end of the formal programme on the first day, we presented our TEF report. It was gratifying to see how much interest it has generated; our presentation was very well received.

In the breakout sessions following our presentation, the delegates discussed the impact of the TEF on the industry and how booksellers and publishers could work together on this, and compiled possible questions to include in the NSS about learning resources. One question that was suggested by several groups (in this or similar wording) was “To what extend do the provided learning resources support your learning outcomes?”
The groups came back with a big variety of suggestions on how cooperation could make the TEF work, including the sharing of data, the joint funding of further research into the area, collaboration on standards, and – mentioned by several groups – joint lobbying. Everyone agreed that transparency, communication and cooperation had to be key to make it work for both sides.

break-out 2

(part 2 to follow)

(c) photos: Sharon Benton

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