Theme: Student research
Authors: Ian Johnston & Joe Fletcher
Overview of Seven Bridges
Seven Bridges is a peer-reviewed student-run journal, published annually by Newcastle College. The journal began in 2013 as a student-led initiative focussed on promoting work from HE courses within the college’s management school. In 2014 the remit of Seven Bridges was widened to accept article submissions from across all of the college’s HE programmes. The Seven Bridges operation is run by an editorial team and is supported by a network of peer reviewers from across the college. The journal is currently on its sixth issue, which was published in July 2018.
Seven Bridges aims to improve College Based HE (CBHE) scholarship through encouraging student-led research and foregrounding the role of students as producers of knowledge. The journal allows students to gain experience of working with a peer-reviewed academic journal in an environment developed to be supportive of undergraduate students. Key positions within the journal, including the roles of editors, contributors and peer reviewers are all filled by students. This constitution allows students to gain insight into academic writing and research from a range of perspectives. It is intended that the journal provides students the opportunity to develop their understanding of the contexts and practices of academic writing and research in a manner that encourages reflective practice.
Seven Bridges is closely linked to the college’s HE ethos of ‘Student as Producer’, a concept drawn from the work of Mike Neary (2009). Student as Producer is implemented across the college as part of a multi-faceted approach towards the development a culture of student-led knowledge production and the active engagement of students in teaching and learning. Seven Bridges seeks to cultivate this approach by facilitating the development of an academic research community in the college, with the students at its heart. By appointing students in active roles in the production, reviewing, publication and dissemination of academic research, Seven Bridges aims to elevate the culture of generating original academic research amongst students.
How it works
The journal’s editorial team and peer reviewers are all HE students from within the college, with support roles taken up by HE staff. The journal is run independently of any course, with students drawn from across the HE curriculum. The editorial team are recruited as part of a broader student fellowship initiative at the college, which offers extra-curricular roles to students in order to promote academic and professional engagement. Peer reviewers are recruited from the student body and are trained and mentored by members of the editorial team, a process intended to foster peer learning.
Journal contributions are solicited by open call, through promotional address and through staff recommendations to students. The journal accommodates all disciplines, and this breadth is reflected in the composition of both the panel of peer reviewers and the contributors.
The journal is pitched to students as an opportunity to develop their engagement in research and scholarly activity, with the peer-review process at the heart of this strategy. In affording opportunities for students to engage in peer-reviewing, the journal intends to foster engagement with research and academic writing, as well as encourage students to develop broader academic engagement, with first class peer support. The editorial process of Seven Bridges is supportive of students in developing articles for publication, whilst each stage of the review process is constructed in a way to provide constructive feedback and help shape the development of student work.
Where it’s going
Seven Bridges widened its submission remit in 2017 by opening submissions to two groups connected to Newcastle College. The first is across other colleges with HE provision that are part of the college’s management group NCG. Secondly, the journal is aiming to expand its institutional reach through the NECTAR (North East Colleges Teaching and Research) Network, a working group of colleges developing research links within FE institutions in the north east of England. It is hoped that through expanding the presence of Seven Bridges across other FE/HE institutions that a broader audience for CBHE student-led research can be developed.
What impact it’s having
The following is written by Ian Johnston, co-editor of Seven Bridges.
Back in 2016, in my first year of full time study for more than 25 years, I was keen to do as many of the ‘studendty’ things I could find. So, after stumbling across an email offering £25 to review articles, I jumped right in. It really was the money more than the opportunity that drew me to Seven Bridges initially; I didn’t really know what it was, let alone what a peer reviewer did. Seven Bridges turns out to be a journal where the best works from college are collated and formally published, so I reckoned it was worthwhile getting involved.
The task in hand seemed pretty simple: an editor emails an anonymous piece of work; you review it, making sure it is correctly formatted and follows the correct academic style, write feedback and post it back. After I’d been given the first few articles I found my interest was no longer driven by financial reward but by the topics I was reading about. I never thought that Aerospace Welding, Dementia Care or Paediatric Chairs could be interesting but the way the articles were written, and once I had investigated more of the background to each, I was truly absorbed. Slowly I began to better understand the way articles need to be structured, how the content fits together, and that the referencing has to be relevant and accurate.
Roll forward one academic year and I was keen to be involved in the editorial team. This time my application was made on the basis of my academic interest rather than a monetary one and I was lucky enough to be accepted as part of the Editorial Board. My duties involve recruiting peer reviewers and contributors, deciding upon which articles make the cut and preparing the journal for print and our launch event. This year, topics included ‘Concussion in Rugby’, ‘Dyslexia in a Teaching Environment’, ‘Server Virtualisation’ and ‘Emotional Impact of Social Media’. These themes couldn’t be more varied but I found myself researching each to such an extent that I developed a connection to what were previously unknown topics to me.
I have really enjoyed my time working on the journal. I got the chance to mix with students from other schools, something very rare in any higher education setting, and I have raised my ability to plan, write, self-review and complete my assignments; something I am sure helped me over the line with a 1st Class Honours Degree.
Neary, M. & Winn, J. (2009) Student as Producer: Reinventing the Undergraduate Student Experience of Higher Education. In Stevenson, H., Bell, L. and Neary, M. (eds.) The Future of Higher Education, Policy, Pedagogy and the Student Experience. New York and London: Continuum. pp. 192-210
Seven Bridges can be read at: http://sevenbridges.ncl-coll.ac.uk
In 2017-18, Joe Fletcher was Graduate Research Assistant and Ian Johnston was Student Fellow, both at Newcastle College University Centre.