Coronavirus, or Covid-19, has dominated the news headlines for most of 2020. It has affected every country, every community, everyone. The impact is likely to last for years. What can academia offer in the face of this global public health disaster?
I was honoured to be included, in my role as PAC Chair, in the below discussion on the UK Government response to Covid-19 earlier this year.
Following this discussion the co-editors of our esteemed academic journal, Public Policy and Administration (PPA), have set out seven key research themes where PPA scholars may contribute to our wider understanding of Covid-19. These are published in the October issue of PPA and available online now (Dunlop et al. 2020).
Dunlop, C. A., Ongaro, E., & Baker, K. (2020). “Researching COVID-19: A research agenda for public policy and administration scholars”. Public Policy and Administration, 35(4), 365–383. https://doi.org/10.1177/0952076720939631
Did you enjoy our annual conference? I hope you did! This year we had almost 100 abstracts submitted from delegates across 12 countries. It has been the largest and most international PAC Annual Conference in many years.
People often ask me why I do it. Why be Chair of the PAC? Why convene the annual conference? I know that the drive within academia is towards more and more instrumentalism – and the time it takes to do these things I could be writing research bids or journal papers. But I hope that you can see, having participated in the sessions, heard from Professor Barbara Crosby and Rt Hon Baroness Grey-Thompson, and had fun at the conference dinner, why I feel it is a great privilege and honour to serve as your Chair.
The Joint University Council is the UK Learned Society for pubic administration, public policy and social work. As such we have a very important position as the voice of the public administration community. We therefore have the ability to inform and shape the nature of our subject. At this conference there have been many great ground-breaking pieces of research presented but also three things that will help to shape our subject in the future:
1. The conference theme
We made the conscious decision to include marginalisation within the conference theme. This was in recognition that we need to do more to include aspects of marginalisation within our subject. And it was great to see some papers exploring issues related to BAME communities, LGBTQ+ issues and alternative methodological approaches such as post-structuralism and critical realism. For some time now public administration has been a marginalised subject – particularly within business schools. We are lucky that, at Northumbria University, the subject is valued but that is not the case for many of our colleagues and so we have an important role to play in both advocating for more public administration but also pushing the boundaries of what public administration is and who it involves.
2. REF Post-2021
Within the conference packs you will have seen our REF Post-2021 Position Statement. This was developed with the PAC together with colleagues from the special interest groups from the Political Studies Association (PSA) and British Academy of Management (BAM). The statement sets out how important public administration research is and how, in particular within the Unit of Assessment C17, it forms a large part of the submissions.
3. QAA Subject Benchmark Statements
Alongside our position statement on the REF Post-2021 we also have developed a position statement on the QAA Subject Benchmark Statements. Again this was developed with colleagues from the relevant special interest groups from the PSA and BAM. This statement highlights the importance of public services to the economy and for employment. In order to ensure undergraduate students, particularly those graduating with management degrees, are equipped for employment in the mixed employment it is important that public services feature more widely in management degrees.
All these developments highlight how public management and administration is changing. How many people are attending the conference here for the first time? I can see many new faces. You also represent change and by working together, within our learned society, you can play a role in shaping the nature of our subject in the future. We also have two new members of the PAC executive – Dr Karin Bottom is our new Vice-Chair for Teaching and Learning and Dr Russ Glennon is our new Vice-Chair for Research. We are growing and we are changing.
This leads me on to our doctoral researchers. On Monday we held our Doctoral Conference. It was well attended and I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the papers presented. Across the board there were excellent presentations. This made it a very difficult task for both Karin and I in coming to a decision on the Richard Chapman Prize for best doctoral paper. We judged this on a number of criteria including the currency of the research, how it contributes to the field, the quality of the paper and how it fits with the overall conference theme. It was a difficult decision and in the end we have awarded the Richard Chapman Prize along with two additional Highly Commended awards.
Winner of the Richard Chapman Prize in 2019 is Dayo Eseonu from University of Manchester for her paper on “Co-production as social innovation: new wine or new skin for the inclusion of “hard-to-reach” groups in service delivery’.
We award ‘Highly Commended’ to Sean McCulloch from Northumbria University for his paper on ‘Facilitating change from within complex systems: the impact of individual change agents in the NHS’ and to Emma Reith from University of Birmingham for his paper on ‘Research at the margins: the trials and tribulations of stepping outside of one’s disciplinary norms’.
The quality of these papers, and all those presented at the doctoral conference, represent how bright our future is as a subject. We are the only UK Learned Society to represent public administration and social work and it we have a vital role to play in ensuring that our doctoral researchers, early career researchers and academics at all levels are supported. We have a strong position in doing this. We have two journals: Public Policy and Management and Teaching Public Administration, we have our annual conference, we have successfully nominated REF panel members to both the Politics and Business Management panels, we have nominated fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences, we have nominated fellows to the JUC, we also provide funding and other support to those within our member institutions.
I am delighted to confirm that the two funding competitions – for a research seminar series and for a small research grant – will be announced to all member institutions very soon. We also have an opening for treasurer of the JUC. So there are lots of ways to get involved – please contact me or either of my Vice-Chairs if you would like to find out more.
Thank you colleagues for all your participation over the last three days. I will now hand over to Alistair Jones, from De Montfort University, who will introduce you to the PAC Annual Conference 2020!
The Joint University Council for the Applied Social Sciences (JUC) is holding it’s annual conference at Northumbria University on 17-18 September 2019. The theme of the conference is ‘Public Administration and Social Work at the Margins’. Find out more here: www.northumbria.ac.uk/JUC2019
Key features of the conference include:
The Frank Stacey Address delivered by Rt Hon Baroness Grey-Thompson, Chancellor of Northumbria University, former Paralympian and Crossbench Peer
Academic keynote on ‘Integrative Leadership in Tumultuous Times: Claiming the Center’ delivered by Professor Barbara Crosby, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
‘Meet the Editors’ Lunchtime Session with Professor John Diamond (Teaching Public Administration) and Professors Claire Dunlop and Edoardo Ongaro (Public Policy and Administration)
Exhibition stands by academic publishers of latest books/journals and other publications
A social programme including walking tour of the Ouse Burn on evening of 16 September and conference dinner on 17 September.
The idea for the conference theme came about through discussion on the state of the subject of public administration and public management (particularly in the UK context). The subject area has been subject to significant challenge in the last 20-30 years and, alongside the alignment of public administration with Business Schools, there has been a slow and steady decline in the teaching of public administration and public management. This has left some UK scholars feeling marginalised within their own institutions and, more generally, within UK Higher Education.
At the same time the UK, and specifically public administration within the UK, is at risk of becoming marginalised within Europe. Brexit looms large over all aspects of public policy and administration. It also poses significant challenges for UK business which consequently may then have an impact on economic growth and tax receipts. The uncertainty around Brexit and continued economic slump may lead to ongoing austerity for years to come – placing UK public administration at odds with the rest of Europe.
Finally, questions need to be asked about the content, delivery style and assessment of public administration programmes such as MPA’s. Do they adequately address issues of marginalisation? How can universities best support public service organisations to address inequality in the context of ongoing austerity? Whilst politics is in disarray our public servants must continue to deliver good public administration and social work to some of the most vulnerable in our society. As such we want to encourage submissions of abstracts that explore issues of race, gender identity, sexuality, variability and class.
In addressing many of these challenges collaboration and collective leadership is required. At Northumbria University we are leading a public administration revival through our research activities, including the 3PM Research Interest Group, and teaching of public leadership, including the MSc Strategic Leadership for Public Services. This conference marks a great opportunity for scholars and practitioners to come to our campus in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to share the latest thinking on how our public services can work together to tackle inequality and challenge marginalisation. Find out more about the conference here: www.northumbria.ac.uk/JUC2019
The Public Policy and Public Management (3PM) Research Interest Group at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, are hosting a research seminar series over this coming academic semester. The seminars will bring some of the top scholars of public policy and administration to Newcastle to discuss their latest research.
Each of the seminars is listed below. Click on the links to reserve your FREE place:
23 January 2019: Street-Level Bureaucrats and Conflicts – interpersonal vs intergroup. Mike Rowe (University of Liverpool); Lorelei Jones (University of Bangor); Sarah Alden (Sheffield University); and Xiaojain Wu (Northumbria University). Click here to book.
27 February 2019: Localism. Martin Quinn (Leicester Management School) and Karin Bottom (INLOGOV). Click here to book.
5 March 2019: Street-Level Bureaucracy and Control – institutional vis-à-vis individual. Brita Bjørkelo (Norwegian College of Policing) & Hege Høivik Bye (University of Bergen); Angela Mazzetti (Northumbria University); Jack Howard & Barbara Wech (University of Alabama Birmingham); Erin Borry (University of Alabama Birmingham); and Shuo Wang (Northumbria University). Click here to book.
17 April 2019: Employability and Welfare. Steve Bevan (Institute of Employment Studies) and Colin Lindsay (University of Strathclyde). Click here to book.
22 May 2019: Place Leadership. John Gibney, University of Birmingham; Adina Dudau, University of Glasgow; and Alyson Nicholds, Staffordshire University. Click here to book.
The 3PM Research Seminar Series is supported by the JUC Public Administration Committee (PAC) and Newcastle Business School. All research seminars in this series are free to the public and will be of interest to anyone motivated by public service.
Good morning everyone and thank you for coming to the JUC Centenary Event. I am Ian Elliott and I’m Vice-Chair of the JUC. I am standing in today for Sam Baron, our Chair, who unfortunately couldn’t make it.
The first meeting of the JUC was in London 100 years ago. To mark this milestone we wanted to come back to London to consider the role of the JUC for the next 100 years.
The day has three key purposes.
Firstly, we wanted to recognise the achievements of the JUC over the last 100 years. Many great figures have been associated with the JUC and it is important to acknowledge their legacy and how much has been achieved since 1918. So we have Professor Viv Cree who is going to talk us through some of the history of the JUC based on her own research. I would also recommend that you read the excellent history of the JUC by Professor Richard Chapman which is published in our own academic journal – Public Policy and Administration.
But we can’t allow our future to be dictated by past events. We wanted this event to bring people together with a common interest in public services encompassing public administration and social work. We all are here because we believe that the JUC is a valuable learned society and that the study of public administration and social work are essential to improving our communities. It’s important to consider why we are here and the current state of public administration and social work.
My motivation comes from my parents. Particularly my mum. I few up in a rural sub-post office in Northern Ireland. My mum worked from 8am in the morning until 7 or even 8pm at night serving the local community. Often there would be a line of people queuing up outside in the morning waiting to get their giros or to post some letters. It wasn’t a particularly well paid job and even when held up at gunpoint by a masked gang the Post Office wouldn’t pay for extra security – it had to come out of the household budget. After 40 years of service my mum was forced to retire due to the onset of Alzheimer’s. The modest savings that she had built up over those 40 years, along with her pension, all went to pay for her full time care. The rural post office, like so many public services in our most isolated communities, remains shut. This is a story that sadly has been replicated right across the UK. Should we not be aiming for better than this?
I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can, with colleagues, help to inform change in the way our public services are designed and delivered in order to hopefully develop a more caring and compassionate society. We know how much public administration and social work matters. Many of you will have similar storied to tell and similar motivations for being here – let’s not forget that. And let’s not forget that regardless of our background, our research interests or our teaching areas, we have much more in common than divides us.
So the second part of today is for you. It has been specifically arranged as an (un)conference so that we, the JUC officers can shut up and listen. We need to listen to what you have to say, to your priorities and to your ambitions for our learned society. You can tell us your story. What matters to you? And what should the JUC be doing in response? We need your galvanising issues or questions to inform what we will then discuss in the breakout groups. You’ll all have had advance warning so hopefully some of you have some ideas already. If you don’t yet have a key galvanising issue that you would like to raise then have a think just now. But this isn’t an opportunity to whine or moan or to create a TO DO list for someone else – we need people to do things. Get involved! Help us to influence positive change. So I would add to this second key purpose of today – how can you help us to achieve a renewed purpose over the next 100 years?
That then will finally lead into the last part of today, to turn to the future. By the end of the day we will have a set of ideas, or instructions to take forward to our executive meeting in November and then to the AGM in January. The next 100 years starts here – you are all part of it. Please do get involved, discuss your ideas and most of all please enjoy the day! Thank you.
No-one cares anymore. About anything. At least, nothing that really matters. It’s all style and no substance. It’s all cost-cutting, down-sizing, automating, agile, lean, do-it-yourself. Want to speak to someone? Forget it. Fill in a form – online. How about a cardboard cut-out police officer – just as good as the real thing. And, of course, cheaper.
Just take a moment to scroll through Instagram; browse through the magazines that adorn your local newsagents or flick through the TV channels. Nothing is about what people are doing – everything is about what people are consuming. Ask not what you can do for anyone – ask what filter is best for your selfie. Because you’re worth it.
Of course I know this isn’t true. Or at least it’s not the whole truth. I’m lucky, because I am a public administration scholar and in my job I get to meet incredible people every day. People who do care and are making a difference to the most vulnerable in our society. Social workers, teachers, nurses, police officers, fire and rescue officers, local government officers, policy officers, researchers and academics who are all bound by their passion for public service delivery and their strong commitment to civic duty.
Yet so much of the work of our public servants is undermined by their political masters and the media. Those who are less fortunate in life are classed as undeserving and are parodied or seen as sources of entertainment or amusement (take for example the case of so-called Slum Tourism or ‘Poverty Porn‘ on TV) . Those who work to support them are pilloried for being over-paid, clock-watching (by Michael Gove MP), lazy or self-interested. Yet politicians can lie, make fun of ethnic minorities or the disabled and can even threaten our economic and social security without impunity.
One hundred years ago the world was a very different place. The Great War was coming to an end. Women were beginning (albeit slowly) to secure their right to vote. In the midst of growing academic interest in management science and concern for the implementation of policy a group of esteemed scholars, activists and practitioners, including Professors E.J. Urwick and Sidney Webb, met in London to discuss what was to become the Joint University Council. Today we need a new vision and purpose to reflect current challenges and to ensure we maintain our relevance for the next 100 years.
It is important that this new vision and purpose reflects real life. After all, public administration is where politics meets real life: it’s the delivery of political decisions in local settings. The term has been cause of much academic debate in the last thirty years. Academics have argued over traditional public administration, New Public Management and, more recently, New Public Governance. There have been debates about whether New Public Governance exists? Is it a useful concept? How does it relate to New Public Management and Public Administration? Do New Public Governance and New Public Management represent paradigm shifts or do they represent a continuum? But often these debates serve little more than to increase citations before the next REF cycle comes along. Really, we need to set our ambitions a bit higher than that.
Meanwhile our public servants, who increasingly cannot afford their own homes, are actually trying to make a difference to communities through effective service delivery in face of political and media contempt for their work and for the people they serve. They want to know what works, they want validation for the work they do, they want to know how they can do it better. From this perspective some academic debates can appear to be little more than academics picking fluff from their own navels. Academics are no longer at risk of being seen as out of touch – that is the common perception.
That’s why our centenary event will not be a traditional academic conference. Yes, the academic community will be an important part of it. We need those voices. But even moreso we, as academics, need to listen. That is why it is being arranged as an unconference. But in order for this to be effective we need YOU to come, to get involved, to speak up. This is likely to be the most significant meeting for social and public administration since that very first meeting of the JUC in 1918. Just like that first meeting we need academics, activists and practitioners to come. We need people who care. So sign up now, invite others, and let’s set the agenda for the next 100 years.
We are hosting a research seminar series at Queen Margaret University over this semester. The topic of the seminars is ‘Public Leadership in Turbulent Times’. The seminars will bring some of the top scholars of public policy and administration to Edinburgh to discuss their latest research.
Each of the speakers is listed below. Click on the links to reserve your FREE place:
The MPA Research Seminar Series has been sponsored by the JUC Public Administration Committee (PAC) – the UK’s Learned Society for Public Administration. All research seminars in this series are free to the public and will be of interest to anyone motivated by public service.
Would you like some money to support a small piece of research or to deliver a research seminar series? Are you an Early Career Researcher or Doctoral Student wanting to differentiate your CV? Would £2,000 help you develop a small piece of research – potentially as a launch pad to a larger scale grant application?
Increasingly academics are being encouraged to apply for external funding – consequently many of these funds are becoming more and more competitive. At the JUC Public Administration Committee our role is to support the future of public administration research and teaching. As such we have developed these two new funding competitions:
If you are an early career researcher, doctoral student or even established academic within public administration we would love to hear your ideas. You should be within an institutional member of PAC or have attended the PAC Annual Conference in order to be eligible to apply. To find out about joining PAC please email our secretary: sandraodelljuc @ yahoo.co.uk
Brexit, Trump, Syria, ISIS, Climate Change, Poverty, Immigration, Austerity*, EVERYONE is talking about politics. But when it comes to action it is public service professionals, in central and local government, who are responsible. It is these public officials who have to translate politics into practice and are at the front-line of public service delivery in communities across the UK. That’s why there’s never been a better time to study public administration.
I’m really excited to have been elected as the new Chair of the JUC Public Administration Committee (PAC). PAC is the UK learned society for education and research in public administration. It’s origins can be traced back to the establishment of the Joint University Council in 1918. For a full history see here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0952076707071500
The history of the JUC highlights the importance of links with professional bodies, of informing education and training and of representing our institutional members at a national level. As is explained in the above journal article:
the purpose of the PAC is the promotion, development and coordination of the work of higher education institutions in the pursuit of education, training and research in public administration. (Chapman, 2007: 18)
As the newly elected Chair of PAC my thoughts are to the future. There is already a huge amount of work coordinated by PAC including, a two-day FREE doctoral conference, funding of seminars and workshops, the annual conference and publication of two outstanding journals: Public Policy and Administration (more here) and Teaching Public Administration (more here). There is also a lot of work in progress on the planning of the JUC Centenary Event. So a large part of my role as Chair will be to support the continuation of all this great work (thanks at this point must go to the former Chair, Professor Howell, and to the continuing Vice-Chairs Janice McMillan, Pete Murphy and Rory Shand as well as the Editors of PPA and TPA).
In looking to the future I believe we must also grow our membership, diversify our membership and strengthen our links with professional bodies. The critical link with education and training is likely to continue, and indeed may strengthen with the introduction of TEF, but this will always go alongside world-leading research. In short, I believe that PAC can reassert itself as the learned society for public administration in the UK.
In order to do that I need YOUR help. Are you interested in Public Administration – either as a professional or as an academic? Do you currently run undergraduate or postgraduate programmes in public administration or public management? Are you conducting research in areas related to public administration? If so, click here for more information: http://www.juc.ac.uk/pac/ or email the JUC Secretary: sandraodelljuc at yahoo.co.uk
And watch this space for future updates!
Chapman, R.A. 2007. “The Origins of the Joint University Council and the Background to Public Policy and Administration: An Interpretation”. Public Policy and Administration. Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 7-26.