by Fiona Ferbrache
Fulfilling roles as facilitators of learning, impassioned ambassadors and professionals of their subject areas, those who teach, tutor or lecturer will hopefully gain the respect and attention of their students, but few will rise to celebrity status through this calling. Unless, that is, they are part of the ‘celebrity tutors’ (Straits Times) that are hailed as Hong Kong’s ‘tutor kings and queens’ (BBC News). A Channel 4 documentary on this phenomenon revealed how exam pressure in Hong Kong has led to parents seeking additional tutoring for their children and how one ‘super tutor’ has transformed this demand into a successful commercial enterprise. He is one example of a celebrity tutor that you may catch smiling glamorously from giant posters in Hong Kong shopping malls or on the sides of buses – the typical advertising ground for commercialised faces such as film stars and sports stars.
These ‘Tiger Tutors’ are interesting in terms of their insight to the commercialisation and staging of education, but I also want to draw attention to another part of the professional academic’s life: the staging of research. Tim Hall explores, in an early view paper for The Geographical Journal, human geographers’ contemporary research activities with a focus on the changeability and diversity of individuals’ research practices (in British universities). The paper draws upon survey results to discuss why change happens and highlights the porosity of geographical research boundaries, applied research and contention between autonomous research and the staging of Geography within departments, funding bodies and the structures of the RAE. Hall’s paper complements earlier sociologies of geography such as those by Sidaway (1997) and Castree (2011).
The two academic activities, presented here, demonstrate general processes of academic knowledge production and, particularly, “the corporatisation of higher education” (Hall 2013:11). As an early career academic, both offer optimism for the future, in their different ways.
Hall, T. 2013 Making their own futures? Research change and diversity amongst contemporary British human geographers. The Geographical Journal. DOI: 10.1111/geoj.12002
Castree, N. 2011 The future of geography in English universities. The Geographical Journal 177,4. 294-9
Sidaway, J. 1997 The production of British geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 22,4. 488–504
HK celebrity tutors. The Straits Times: Asia Report
Meet the ‘tutor kings and queens’. BBC News online.
The making of… Hong Kong’s Tiger Tutors. Channel 4