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Project questions

Section A. Introduction

The following are the questions which the research project aims to address, and in this way first to give a broad outline of the scope of the project (Section B) and then to set some wide and yet distinct parameters for the two Delhi workshops (Sections C & D).  The questions in Section B will underpin all the workshops; those in Sections C and D give a sense of the specific thrusts of the two workshops respectively.

It should be emphasised here that the questions here are not offered in a mechanical spirit or as an exam where all questions have to be answered. Rather they are designed to provoke thought. All are probably best approached in relation to specific themes or contexts or issues or materials in mind.

We have made every effort not to pose leading questions, i.e. questions which seem to invite a particular answer or a particular solution; our aim is to offer questions which, in every instance, allow for contrary answers and disagreements.

Section B. Questions of general relevance / background information for the project as a whole for discussion at the Planning Meeting on December 2:

  1. Institutional organization: How is English Studies, by which we mean pedagogy and scholarship in literature, language and linguistics, cultural studies relevant to Anglophone areas (hereafter ES), currently organised institutionally in Indian Higher Education (HE)?

    (a) in terms of kinds of HE institutions providing ES:  public and private, central and state, formal and informal, specialist research and academically-focused and vocationally-focused; and within broad institutional thrusts (arts and humanities/ education /technology/ commerce, etc.).

    (b) in terms of discipline-specific arrangements within institutions: i.e. how is ES situated in faculties/schools/colleges/institutes/centres? is the emphasis on a combined approach or an emphatically literary or linguistic or cultural studies approach? what is the balance between research and teaching; etc.

    (c) How are the above distinguished according to undergraduate and graduate levels?

  2. Policy and funding:

    (a) What current central and state-level HE policies are relevant to pedagogy and scholarship in Arts and Humanities generally, and in ES particularly (e.g. policies regarding access, infrastructure, educational goals, quality regulation)? How have these shifted in the last twenty years?

    (b) What level of funding, public and/or private, does HE ES pedagogy and scholarship receive: according to kind of institution; relative to other areas of arts and humanities; for different levels of activity (undergraduate, graduate, advanced); etc.? What trends are discernible in the last 5-10 years?

  3. Student interest and demand:

    (a) Are current HE ES curricula and pedagogic approaches responsive to actual or perceived student demand? If so, how is responsiveness ensured? Does this vary by type of institution?

    (b) Further to (a), how should the interests of students be taken into account in ES if at all?

    (c) Do students perceive the different aspects of ES (see above) in different ways, i.e. are there differences in perception among students, and between students and providers?

  4. English Studies professional bodies/ cultural organizations:

    (a) What existing professional bodies/ cultural organizations/ international groups are relevant to ES HE pedagogy and scholarship – how are they funded and constituted, what activities do they engage in, what sort of membership do they have, etc.?

    (b) What sort of mediating and networking roles do they play: between institutions nationally; between institutions internationally; with regard to public engagements and perceptions?

  5. Involvement in ES HE pedagogy and scholarship:

    (a) With regard to students involved in ES at different levels of HE: what sorts of data are available? Are there, for instance, statistics on the student body for ES undergraduates/graduates in some context according to economic background, gender, caste, region, etc.? Are there feedback mechanisms which may give indicative information on the constituency of the student body? Can anything in this direction be inferred for ES from publicly available information (from government agencies) which accounts for Arts and Humanities?

    (b) Similar questions with regard to teachers, researchers, and others engaged in a professional capacity in ES HE.

  6. ES in HE and employment/careers:

    (a) What sorts of information are available about the sectors, outside academia, in which ES graduates find employment (cultural industries, news media, publishing, public relations, BPO, NGOs, etc.)? Are there attempts to track such information in institutions providing ES HE? Do employers in any sector make such information available? To what extent are employment sectors confined to a national domain, or extend to an international domain?

    (b) Is information available on perceptions of the viability of ES for employment: from student surveys, public attitude surveys, and relative to other disciplines?

  7. ES and society:

    (a) What normative social perceptions attach to ES as a knowledge area (beyond employment prospects): for instance, in being regarded as coeval with cultural imperialism, an instrument of national integration, a cause for exacerbating class differences, and so on. What evidence is there of the degrees to which such normative perceptions are held?

    (b) What evidence is there (beyond strongly held impressions or “common knowledge”) that ES has contributed or could contribute to social change (whether progressive or detrimental) – e.g., in relation to class mobility, the politics of identity (gender, caste, regional or national, etc.), international presence?

Section C.  Possible Questions for specific attention in Workshop 1:  English Studies curriculum/ pedagogy/ scholarship and the market

  1. With specific institutional contexts in mind, what are the dominant emphases currently in:

    (a) ES HE curricula setting (in terms of coverage, content, and structure – i.e. what areas are covered, how is progression ensured across levels, what is assessed, what changes in ES curricula have taken place and why);

    (b) ES HE teaching practices (mode of delivery, infrastructure for teaching, access to materials, assessment methods, etc.);

    (c) ES scholarship (what are the currently high profile areas of research, which areas of research have strong resources and are encouraged by funding, to what extent is research related to teaching, what kinds of networks and collaborations are involved, where is ES research in India located in terms of an international profile, etc.).

  2. (a) To what extent are ES curricula, teaching practices and scholarship dependent on non-academic services and industries to meet their academic purposes: such as publishers; archives, libraries and other information sources; IT and other electronic infrastructure; etc.?

    (b) How does such dependence affect academic pursuits in ES; are non-academic services and industries adequate for academic pursuits

  3. What quality assurance measures and processes attach to ES pedagogy and scholarship: such as, peer assessments; internal and external reviews and validations; setting measures or benchmarks of performance and output; etc.  Should these be regarded as helpful? Do they work in the interests of teachers and/or students?
  4. (a) To what extent and in what ways, if at all, do ES curricula and pedagogy respond to market needs (students’ career aspirations, the needs of different employment sectors) in a tractable manner (for which evidence of some sort can be found)?

    (b) Should English Studies curricula and pedagogy seek to do so in a more tractable way than at present – why (what are advantages and dangers of attempting this)? And, if the answer is in the affirmative, how should that be undertaken?

  5. To what extent does ES scholarship address the practicalities of employment and careers: as a topic of research, through networking and collaborations and public profiling, in terms of what student researchers do, etc.? Should this situation change:  if so, why?; if not, why not?
  6. (a) In what ways does ES scholarship engage with social and cultural issues which have a purchase beyond the academic disciplines of ES (which interest those other than ES specialists)? In what ways is such a larger interest evident?

    (b) Should ES scholarship seek to extend to interests beyond immediate disciplinary precincts more actively than it does at present?

Section D. Possible Questions for specific attention in Workshop 2: The expectations of employers/policy-makers and English Studies graduates/researchers

  1. Employers:

    (a) To what extent do employers, in particular sectors other than the academic, employ ES graduates?

    (b) From the employers’ perspective, are ES graduates suitable for such employment – specifically, what advantages and disadvantages do ES graduates present relative to graduates from other disciplines?

    (c) To what extent do employers provide facilities for job-specific training and development?

    (d) Do employers feel that academic curricula and pedagogy in HE should be more responsive to career prospects? If so, what sort of responsiveness would they wish to see – given that the academic integrity and openness of the discipline and the students’ choices will need to be maintained, if not enhanced?

  2. Policy-makers (mainly public policy makers in relation to different public sector areas, including education; but also those who determine public policy through “think-tanks”, by holding different executive or budgetary roles, etc., and also those involved in determining corporate policy in some significant and broad way):

    (a) What public interest role does ES have in relation to the Indian polity, social life and social development, from a public policy perspective?

    (b) What general provision (covering ES and other disciplines) is made at the level of policy to ensure academic independence and maximise public access to HE and academic knowledge? To what extent is ES a distinguishable area in these terms, if at all?

    (c) What sorts of policies, if any, are currently implemented or contemplated which may have an effect on specifically ES scholarship and pedagogy?

  3. HE administrators:

    (a) In what ways do those involved in the management of HE institutions seek to respond to employers’ expectations and current policy, and why? Do these have any specific bearing on ES?

    (b) To what extent are HE managers involved in policy-making and networking with employment sectors other than the academic, and does ES figure there?

    (c) What institutional efforts are made to maintain the integrity and openness of academic work, and what sort of consultative procedures with academics (including students/ teachers/ researchers) are in place?

  4. ES academics:

    (a) Do ES students/ teachers/ researchers feel they have a fair stake (in terms of consultation, membership of committees and other governance bodies, etc.) in determining institutional practices particularly and public policy generally?

    (b) What sources of information do ES academics have re employers’ perceptions and demands? Are these adequate?

    (c) To what extent do ES academics feel that taking account of such factors as employment prospects and public policy are necessary or detrimental to academic pursuits, and why? 

Prospects for English Studies: India and Britain Compared is funded by

The Arts and Humanities Research Council