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Theoretical and Contextual Studies

Case Study Report, September 2003

Jonathan Day

Mike Harrison:


Update, Nov 2004
Background Report 1
Background Report 2
Sample Course Outline and Bibliography
Student Feedack



The Module in Japanese Art, Design and Culture is offered within the School of Theoretical and Historical Studies in Art and Design at the University of Central England in Birmingham. The School is part of the Department of Art within the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. The Module is offered as an option to Second Year BA (Hons) students within the Birmingham Institute. The Option was offered for the first time at the start of the second semester in February 2003. The joint tutors for the Module are Jonathan Day and Dr Michael Harrison. They took up and developed an already existing module. The School was experiencing very serious difficulties in getting part-time staff to teach the subject in Birmingham. Jonathan Day unsuccessfully tried to use the GLAADH network to get staff (this was prior to the launch of the GLAADH subject specialists list). The problem was made even more difficult by the fact that the rates of pay were low and the School was not in a position to pay tutors' travelling expenses.

Jonathan Day was already teaching aspects of World Art and Michael Harrison was keen to extend his knowledge of Japanese architecture and design and so they took advantage of the GLAADH scheme to develop their knowledge, gain first-hand experience of Japan and purchase hardware to improve the delivery of the Module. They both had some knowledge of South-East Asia because of links with Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore. Jonathan Day has also travelled extensively in this area. The Faculty Library already had some books on Japanese art and design. The Faculty Librarian has responded with vigour to the increased requests for books and other material from Jonathan Day and Michael Harrison. The Head of the School of Theoretical and Historical Studies in Art and Design has bought a LCD projector for the use of staff and students on this module wanting to make Powerpoint presentations.

Jonathan Day additionally teaches an Level 1 course in Approaches to World Art. This envelopes a range of critical perspectives and debates within a series of case studies. The course exploits the School's lecture theatre, which is traditionally equipped with slide projectors and a dated video projector. GLAADH has allowed the School to acquire a laptop computer in order to exploit developments in presentational software. As mentioned above, the School has also acquired an LCD projector to work with the laptop. The multi-media presentations will begin in the autumn of 2003.


Michael Harrison used the majority of his part of the funding to visit museums in the United Kingdom and purchase books and catalogues. The latter were to be used to further his knowledge and to act as a further resource for the students taking the Option in Japanese Art, Design and Culture. Approximately six months of dedicated research was spent on this part of the project, before the Module was launched. Further research has been done since February. In addition, Michael Harrison also visited Japan (from Singapore, where he had been visiting Lasalle College on behalf of UCE) for a week in early September 2002. As the member of staff responsible for the 3DD, architecture and town planning elements in the programme, he felt it necessary to have some first-hand knowledge of Japan. This obviously adds to the knowledge and credibility of the tutor, but it also enabled him to take many slide shots of buildings and artefacts he saw on his travels. These slides are not covered by existing copyright rules and arrangements could be made to make them available to others via GLAADH. The travel element of this trip was only partially funded by GLAADH, and the amount of time spent in Japan was limited, though immensely valuable. The arrangements and half of the cost of this trip were borne by Dr Harrison.

Jonathan Day was able to augment Dr. Harrison's literature resource with further books acquired both in the UK and in Singapore. The latter is a valuable source for Chinese books and was found top be especially useful for publications (catalogues etc.) about contemporary work. Jonathan also undertook a range of cultural explorations and interviews during 'rest' time on his teaching visits to Singapore. A small film resource was also created, although this mainly exploits materials already owned by the tutors.

Jonathan principally used GLAADH funding to 'buy' teaching relief in order to develop the courses, including programming the multi-media aspects of the L1 course.


Mike Harrison:The Level 2 module has just been taught in its new format with Jonathan Day and Michael Harrison as its joint tutors. It was a popular option. Indeed, we had to turn students away because of time and accommodation constraints. Two classes were taught, with the tutors changing groups half way through the semester. This was done to accommodate the different areas of expertise of the two members of staff involved. Jonathan Day has been largely responsible for the 2-dimensional aspects of the course, whilst Michael Harrison covered the 3-dimensional areas of the programme. Both groups have, we feel, benefited not only from the wider range of seminar topics on offer, but also from the different personalities and approaches of the two tutors. As the students came from several different courses within the Faculty, the tutors did find it rather more difficult than they expected to apportion the students according to their areas of expertise and ended up covering a few seminars which were nominally outside their remit. The students verbally acknowledged the enthusiasm of the staff, and expressed their own interest and enjoyment of the module in a Student Questionnaire. Jonathan Day and Michael Harrison have enjoyed the experience. Most students worked quite hard on their projects, and the seminars were generally of a good standard. The Option will certainly be offered again next Academic Year.

Jonathan Day:In addition to this new module, I also teach a module in Indian art at Level 2 and so it is possible for me to compare these experiences and weigh the contribution of GLAADH. The semi-team teaching, if I may characterise it thus, is certainly beneficial. Mike and I have very different styles and the students enthusiastically appreciated this embodiment of difference. Personally this is very satisfying given our attempts to subvert authoritarian readings of cultural products and phenomena. A further very significant benefit of GLAADH involvement was the creation of a small 'bespoke' literature resource. We are a large institution and pressure on our library stock is a constant difficulty and frequent student gripe. Having a number of texts available only to students on this course was hugely beneficial. Not only did this facilitate research, it also created a sense of well being and security within the cohort, a sense of being cared for and valued as course members. This has been thought provoking for me; it is easy to lose sight of the importance of detail in these times of 'mass higher education'. The clear danger of this approach is that we are seen to be 'prescribing' texts and limiting students exposure to a range of literature. Thankfully this was not the case and students did not restrict themselves to the texts we supplied, using them instead as a springboard. An unlooked for benefit of GLAADH was the wide exploitation by students of the laptop and projector for presentations using a variety of software packages. This further characterised the course as well supplied.

Generally I found the students to be highly motivated and their work was impressive. We presented an anonymous 'retiring' questionnaire to the students. This is yet to be fully analysed although a skim reading is very encouraging. I will furnish details as they become available. Similarly Ken Quickenden, our Head of School attended a session and has agreed to write a report as a supplement to this one. Further to this our Faculty operates a formal Student Satisfaction Survey which will determine a series of mathematical scores for aspect of the course. This will be available by the end of the summer.

A final note regarding this module. We intend it to be concerned with Japanese and Chinese material. Much of our research has been undertaken towards this end. The pre-existing module was specifically concerned with Japanese work, however and for reasons of formal validation we ran the module under this rubric this year. We will make the change either in this coming session or as part of a faculty wide revaluation at the end of next year.

Programming the multi-media aspects of the Level 1 course has highlighted several problems. Firstly the problem of copyright. Our consultant has indicated that we can use recordings of any material that is broadcast. This is wonderful in the sense that there is a wealth of material available. The problem here lies with quality. Material recorded onto VHS, which is then converted to DV/Quicktime is less sharp than I would like. This is compounded by the popularity of DVD equipment, raising student expectations. The cost of purchasing DVD material for education purposes is prohibitive. At the moment we are exploring the possibility of recording broadcast material onto a high quality format. This of course will not assist us with the wealth of material we hold as VHS stock.

My conclusion here, I suppose, is that an attempt to incorporate technological advances partially serves to highlight how far behind we lag in presentational terms. The second difficulty encountered has been one of storage. Exploiting even compromised quality moving images alongside high quality stills uses an enormous amount of computer memory. The laptop purchased for this project can hold a little over one lecture at a time. This is not an insurmountable problem, but is exacerbated by the difficulties of storage. Such large files will not fit onto CD-roms and we do not have access to a DVD recorder. An external hard drive is the answer, but this adds to the capital costs of the project.

All the above notwithstanding, the programming has been successful and I am confident that it will impact on the quality of the student experience of the course. We will make a comparison between student feedback questionnaires for this last session (2002-3) with next year's one and report our conclusions as they become available.

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