From the Mind of Mikel

A University of Worcester Film Studies Blog

Welcome to my mind…

From the Coca Cola filmstrip, "Black Trea...

I’ve only recently got into this blogging malarky. And I’ve not tried to sustain my own blog – a place for my questions and thoughts about all things cinema and cinema education. Perhaps, if I get annoyed enough, maybe even some political rants.  I’m hoping that this blog will be read, not only by our current students – encouraging them to engage with contemporary debates or disagreements – but I also hope film studies alumni from Worcester will also get involved. I’d also like to hear from other film studies students and academic faculty/staff from universities around the world as we discuss everything from canonicity to contemporary film studies pedagogy.

Today, teaching began for us at the University of Worcester in Film Studies (I can’t say anything too controversial here if I’m not using pseudonyms…). We’ve recently validated a Single Honours degree in Film Studies I’m particularly proud of. All that is by the by, however.

Cover of "A Short Guide to Writing about ...

One of the discussions we’ve been having at the university is regarding what ‘additional’ expenses we can expect our students to undertake given the ‘new economic environment’ in Higher Education (HE) in the UK. This is not the place to rant about the new fees structure, where university students are now expected to pay for their university fees in full (as they have done forever in countries like the US or my own native Canada). But the discussion at Worcester are about ‘additional’ costs – specifically, should students be expected to pay additional costs for field trips and other expenses as part of their course. This is a reasonable debate to be engaged with. However, I find the debate can easily slide into silliness: to wit, (and this is an actual debate we are currently engaged with) should students be expected to buy their own textbooks and/or (in the case of film studies) acquire course films on DVD?

This afternoon, in my Intro to Film class, I pointed to four textbooks we’re going to be using in this module (this is a long module, running across both semesters). But also pointed out that, rather than paying the obscene amount some publishers like McGraw Hill charge for the latest edition of Bordwell & Thompson (£42.99 for 10th edition) or Pearson for  Corrigan’s Short Guide to Writing About Film (£27.99 for 8th edition) that earlier editions cost considerably less if bought second hand. For example, the 6th edition of Corrigan can be found on Amazon Marketplace for £1.76 or the 8th Edition of Bordwell and Thompson for £15. So I’m all for saving students money in anyway I can.

Alfred Hitchcock, head-and-shoulders portrait,...

But the question we’ve been wrestling with is this: Can we expect students to buy DVDs of course films? Most DVDs are dirt cheap these days, and I’ve found some really great stuff in second hand DVD shops or even in places like Cash Converters; one local pawnshop offers 10 DVDs for £7! Every few weeks, someone comes to the Student Union to sell used DVDs and I noticed they’re going for about £2/each! In most cases, I’m sure we could teach with a less expensive alternative: if copies of Gold Diggers of 1933 are unavailable or prohibitively expensive, fine – I’ll use Singin’ in the Rain instead. No biggie.

So what do others think about the expectations on students for buying books or course films? It may only be anecdotal evidence, but it would still be valid…

One post-script: Back in the olden days, when I was a first year undergraduate at York University (in Toronto), we had to buy four key text books for our Intro to Film module: Film Art (although 2nd edition back in the day…), Movies & Methods Vols 1 & 2, and (what is now) Braudy & Cohen’s Film Theory & Criticism. Using what these books, or their equivalents, would cost today, I spent the equivalent of £144.89 on books (oh, would that we’d had Amazon Marketplace back then!). If my students now paid retail (and who pays retail?!), the cost would be £104.96, for Film Art, Corrigan’s Short Guide, Susan Hayward’s Cinema Studies: Key Concepts and Film: Essential Study Guide.  I don’t know what that means, but it’s kinda interesting…

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One thought on “Welcome to my mind…

  1. Personally, I expect to have to acquire relevant materials for my course. Of course it would be preferable that the key texts weren’t stupid amounts of money, but last year, for instance, I got all of my English Language books from a combination of Amazon, Ebay and charity shops. I have no problem with ‘shopping around’ as it were, I also have no problem with tatty copies of books, so long as they are still legible (my copy of hamlet ended up in about 3 pieces, but was still usable).

    I don’t think it unreasonable to expect that students pay extra for things such as books etc, but something I regularly get irked by is the cost of books in general, even a bog standard fiction book can be £9.99, and I sort of miss the justification for these prices (particularly when illiteracy is as big a problem as it is).

    But that is going a bit off topic, I think…!

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