Events & Conferences* Teaching and Learning Conference for Politics, 2017
Teaching and Learning Conference for Politics, 2017
10th Annual Political Studies Association/British International Studies Association Conference
University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool (map)

Conference convenors: Professor Mike Neary and Dr Yee Wah Foo (School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln)

The University of Lincoln invites you to participate in this year's annual PSA/BISA teaching and learning conference. The theme for the conference is:

Teaching Politics as a Vocation

The conference is concerned with teaching politics in higher education. The theme for the conference is based on a lecture given by Max Weber (1864 - 1920) to the Free Students Union of Bavaria in Munich 1919 during the German Revolution, when Munich was regarded as Bavarian Socialist Republic. The title of the lecture was 'Politics as a Vocation'.

The lecture is famous for raising issues concerned with politics as a vocation. The issues dealt with in this lecture could usefully be applied to consider teaching politics as a vocation now. This includes matters with which we are already familiar, but there are other issues that might help us to consider our professional life as university teachers in a different way. If the state is 'the legitimate use of force', as Weber claimed, to what extent can teaching in state sponsored institutions be regarded as a form of violence (Allen 2014, Neary 2016)? We are used to talking about passionate teaching but how about charismatic teaching (McCulloch 2014) as well as the concept vanity in academic life? Weber had it that 'in academic and scholarly circles vanity is a sort of occupation disease' (Weber 1919). We are used to thinking of administration and bureaucracy as a negative aspect of our work but how about thinking about it as a radical gesture, full of progressive morality and ethical intent (Du Gay 2000); and, rather than complaining about neoliberal managerialism, how might we as teachers of politics construct other forms of democratic leadership in our institutions as well as taking on positions of democratic leadership and promoting collegiality (Winn and Hall 2017, Bacon 2014). It is important, following Weber, that we contextualise our thinking with reference to the political context within which we are working, which although not a time of revolution is a period of enormous political upheaval, when socialist solutions appear to have been disabled and right wing proto-fascism is coming back to prominence.


Allen, Ansgar (2014) Benign Violence in Education 

Bacon, Ed (2014) Neo-colleigality in HE 

Du Gay, Paul (2000) In Praise of Bureaucracy 

Hall and Winn Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in Higher Education

MCulloch, Andrew (2014) Charisma and Patronage; Reasoning with Max Weber 

Neary, Mike (2016) Educative Power: the myth of dronic violence in a period of civil war

Weber, Max (1919) Politics as a Vocation 

Keynote Speakers

Dr Edwin Bacon, Reader in Comparative Politics, Birkbeck, University of London
‘There is little relationship, if any, between political science and politics’. So claimed Joseph Napolitan, the founder of the American Association of Political Consultants. He was not a lone voice in asserting that there exists a huge gap between the concerns of political science as taught in universities and the real-world concerns of political practitioners. How should we address this mismatch between theoretical and applied politics? Indeed, some would ask, should we even try? With students and government increasingly concerned with outcome in terms of achieving and measuring graduate employment, teaching practical politics has obvious attractions. But might doing so drag politics degrees into providing an intellectually light ‘how to’ guide of skills and techniques in order to respond to some externally imposed employability agenda driven by austerity and student debt? Edwin Bacon argues that teaching applied politics deserves a central place in the undergraduate curriculum and that it can and should be taught in a way that is both intellectually robust and responds to exigencies deeper than employability alone.

Prof Jacqui Briggs, Head of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln
Post-the 2017 General Election, what will happen to the teaching and learning of politics in the higher education sector? What are the issues that face the teaching and learning of politics under the new governmental regime? We are already faced with numerous challenges in the teaching and learning of politics. These include; recruitment, the Teaching Excellence Framework, teaching large groups, graduate employability, research-led and research-engaged teaching, the use of technologies, curriculum design, innovative teaching practices, internationalisation of the curriculum, assessment and feedback processes, amongst others. Many politics courses now link up more clearly with the wider world, enabling students to engage with politics and politicians directly, as opposed to merely studying politics through such activities as internships and bringing in outside guest speakers (such courses exist at Birkbeck University and at Keele University, by way of example). Jacqui Briggs outlines why she believes that politics teaching will go from strength-to-strength in these ‘interesting times’. Recruitment remains remarkably buoyant, and there is clear value in a politics degree, despite the continuing questions regarding fees, as the subject benchmark statements illustrate. The next generation of political scientists, politicians and policy makers will have much to contribute to and gain from a degree in politics.


For further information, please contact Professor Mike Neary ( or Dr Yee-Wah Foo (


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