Passing of Celebration of Former AUDTRS Executive Member Owen Cole

TRS UK members will be sad to hear of the recent death of Owen Cole. The Guardian published this obituary making clear his contribution to the discipline of Religious Studies and beyond. There will be a celebration of his life at 2pm, on Sunday November 10th, in the Chapel at the University of Chichester (Bishop Otter Campus, College Lane, Chichester), to which all are welcome. The celebration will be held in the manner of Friends (Quakers). This means anyone who wishes to speak is very welcome to share memories. Owen requested that no black should be worn.

Past Meetings and Conferences

TRS and Affiliate News

The Critical Religion Association

The Critical Religion Association has launched a new website.  Based at the University of Stirling, CRA is an international scholarly association which encourages participation and online contributions from scholars working on questions of ‘religion’ and related categories.  For more information about CRA and its research interests, visit: criticalreligion.org

Past TRS Newsletters

2nd July, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Before we finally leave the 2011-2012 academic session behind us there are a few items to report from AUDTRS.

On 20th June 2012 I attended a meeting of Subject Associations in London, called by the AHRC. It was introduced by Professor Rick Rylance and we covered a wide range of issues relating to research funding in the arts and humanities. Most of the morning was given up to a discussion about partnerships with non-academic organisations, and it is clear that AHRC is extremely keen to promote these. I admit that I was left more than a little sceptical about the serious academic value of many of these collaborations, not least those driven by the media, who seem to think very much in black-and-white terms – while the word ‘impact’ was never far from minds and lips. Clearly my hesitations were not shared by everyone – and I would be glad to promote discussion on this matter.

During the afternoon we broke into three groups dealing with ‘support of disciplines’, ‘internationalization’, and ‘how do we spot rising trends?’ I attended the first group – and perhaps the major anxiety expressed by various people (apart from myself, there were representatives from music, classics, archaeology, Italian studies and Jewish studies present) was the tendency of project-based funding to favour ‘superstructural’ rather than ‘infrastructural’ support. That is, people, including myself, expressed fears that the fundamental, necessary and underlying elements of subjects tended to be neglected in favour of more occasional and ‘impact strong’ projects. The final consequence can only be a withering away of the strong academic quality of research.

My final question of the day – which provoked no response whatsoever from the AHRC – was whether the AHRC regarded themselves as a body which supports the freedom of academic research and the individual research scholar, or whether they tended rather to promote and implement patterns of research that were finally driven by government or other larger non-academic agencies. I feel, perhaps, that it is a question which we should not leave without some kind of response – not least in a year which will see REF activity ratchetting up in all our institutions.

The Annual General Meeting of AUDTRS will take place in King’s College, London on Saturday 8th September, 2012. Please put this in your diaries and try to make sure that your institution is represented at this meeting. It is important. First of all, Ron Geaves and I will then come to the end of our terms of office as President and Secretary. New office holders will be elected at that meeting and take up office as from that date. Any nominations should be sent to Ron Geaves – and it is possible to nominate yourself if you wish, though all nominations should be seconded. So far we have one nomination for the post of President.

During the day there will be four other items on the agenda. Ron and I will briefly outline the work of AUDTRS over the past four years, and how we see its importance as a national subject association for the future. Much of its work remains largely unseen – attending meetings of HEFCE or AHRC, working with other subject associations, and so on. Perhaps we need to make this more public – and our investment in the new website is indicative of our attempt to do this. Second, Professor Hugh Pyper will outline his work with the newly formed HEA based in York. We have been working closely with Hugh (a former Secretary of AUDTRS), not least in preserving TRS resources formerly hosted by the Subject Centre for PRS. Third, we have invited some post-doctoral and early career colleagues to speak about their hopes and fears in the present climate in the UK. Finally, we have asked Professor Jolyon Mitchell of Edinburgh University, who has been a stalwart supporter of AUDTRS, to talk about his sense of the future of AUDTRS and its work.

We will be asking for brief reports from other areas of AUDTRS concern, such as the bench-marking programme led by Dr. George Chryssides, and so on.

Ron Geaves and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time in office but it is clearly now time to pass things on to people who are of a younger generation. Clearly the next year or two – with REF and other issues on the agenda – will present us with considerable challenges that will need to be met with energy and imagination.

Finally, I would like to thank in particular Dr Sue Yore of York St. John University, our Treasurer. She has been a remarkable steward of our slim resources, enabling us to be active, attend meetings, and keep AUDTRS very much in the company of other, often much larger subject associations, and thus our subject at the centre of national discussions and consciousness.

David Jasper
President of AUDTRS
2nd July, 2012.