In recent years there has been a proliferation of alternative education groups across the UK, and a renewed focus in developing approaches to teaching and research which emphasise their interdependence rather than situate them as distinct academic concerns. Contesting the assumption that the student is no more than a consumer of their degree, such groups have attempted to foster an atmosphere of collaborative research between staff and students, and as such introduce a spirit of critical thinking into the student experience. For example, at the University of Lincoln, the Student as Producer programme has become instrumental in informing the character of student engagement across the University. Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘Author as Producer’ (1934), the programme’s developers have affirmed “the role of the student as collaborators in the production of knowledge […] so that students can recognise themselves in a world of their own design”. Such a stance has also been taken up within The Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research at the University of Warwick, which sought a greater integration of teaching and research through the increased involvement of students, in particular through the publication of the Reinvention Journal from 2007. This emphasis on journal production as a central aspect of student engagement in the academic community has been seen in the establishment of VOX Journal in the School of PEP (Politics, Economics and Philosophy) at the University of York in 2006. However, it also underpins the aims and ambitions of the Roundhouse Journal, and has done so since its establishment at the University of Leeds in 2008.
Roundhouse started its life in the School of POLIS (Politics and International Studies) at Leeds following a desire from students on the third-year Critical Theory module to provide a way to showcase their work. As the Roundhouse Editorial Principles from this period state, “The written essay, once produced should not exist in a vacuum. Nor does it, in any real sense, represent a completion of any discussion or the totality of the author’s ideas”. Therefore, as the essay itself was conceived as being part of a larger research trajectory, the essays of each student could instead be seen as contributing to a world of academic activity. As such, the students, in partnership with their module leader Dr Ricardo Blaug, set up a peer-reviewed journal which would be run by students and published on an annual basis. In addition to providing one another with experience of the peer-review process and the world of academic publishing, Roundhouse also ran a number of film screening and workshops, and organised a conference on May 23rd 2010 entitled Critical Theory and Education. This conference brought together speakers from universities across the country, with many of the topics covered throughout the day making their way into a special issue of Roundhouse, Reimagining the University, including contributions from some of the conference participants. Following this burst of activity, the journal itself quickly expanded to include contributions from related disciplines in the social sciences, law, education and music; a development reflected in the most recent issue of the journal, published in a print edition in 2013 thanks to a successful application for funding to the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.
Due primarily to many of Roundhouse’s members moving away from Leeds, as well as the closure of the Critical Theory module following Dr Blaug’s departure, in the summer of 2013 the remaining members of Roundhouse decided to pass over control of the journal to a new group of postgraduate students within The Bauman Institute. This move represents a change in disciplinary focus – towards social and political theory in general rather than Critical Theory specifically – whilst nevertheless retaining the spirit of the journal. One significant benefit of this transformation is that our new home in The Bauman Institute not only gives Roundhouse a greater level of security, it also provides a means of establishing a more solid link between the students and a specific research group at the University of Leeds. This is consistent with the notion of the ‘student as producer’ as it promotes the ideas of students engaging with the process of knowledge production rather than being passive recipients (or consumers). Whilst we encourage our members to engage in research which displays a level of consistency with the research interests of The Bauman Institute as a whole, we are thoroughly committed to developing our programme of research in a variety of interesting and hopefully productive directions. Right now Roundhouse’s new Executive Editorial Committee are in the process of recruiting a new cohort of students to take part in the journal’s development.
The Roundhouse Journal’s aims therefore remain largely similar to what they were in 2008. We will continue to foster an atmosphere of collaboration between Roundhouse’s members, to publicise and champion student research, to organise events and film screenings, and to build both national and international networks. In order to achieve this, Roundhouse places a significant level of emphasis on activities surrounding the journal. As such, the journal operates not simply as a way of publicising individual research projects, but also as a means of publishing more collaborative research which may result from our film screenings, reading groups and workshops. To this end, our blog will become central in providing an insight into the process of research carried out by the members of Roundhouse. However, as well as a way to showcase the work we carry out, the Roundhouse blog welcomes submissions from those outside the School, specifically from its previous members, and are keen to develop links with other universities and continue to widen the scope of the research we carry out. Through all this, Roundhouse hopes to continue to play a part in contemporary debates concerning what the relationship between teaching and research could be.
We greatly look forward to seeing how this debate will develop over the coming years and what role Roundhouse will play within it.
– The Roundhouse Executive Editorial Committee