Study publishing at City University, London

Study Publishing

This is a guest post from Mary Ann Kernan of City University, London. Interested in exploring a Publishing MA and UK/EU postgrad fee bursaries? Sign up for City’s Postgraduate Open Evening for 2014-15, 5-7pm on 10 September to study publishing.


It’s great to be working with BookMachine this year to spread the word about City’s two top-rated Publishing MAs in 2014-15 (thanks, Laura & Gavin!). We’ve done a lot together since 2010, when City’s students ran a conference and networking event with BookMachine. Since then, our alums have interned with them, organised BookMachine events (keep an eye out for Tahira’s in Toronto?) and blogged (I especially enjoyed Emma Smith’s recent blog about Faber Factory). I also hosted a joint NY event with BookMachine in 2013, and enjoyed meeting some of the publishing community there; and we were one of the 2014 BookMachine event sponsors in London. (Time to plan for 2014-15, Bookmachiners?!)

The BookMachine team invited me to write a blog post about City’s new module structure from 2014-15, which for the first time allows students to opt for a more professional or a more analytical MA. Designing and developing our new modules over the course of this year, I have continued to challenge myself about the value and impact of City’s Publishing MAs: what do we deliver to our committed, would-be future publishers – almost all of whom, when they apply, say their aim is to get a publishing job?

From the start, we aim to give the City MA students an informed, applied understanding of the worlds of print and ‘publishing’, broadly defined: What do publishers do? How does the industry function in different sectors and parts of the world, and how does commercial publishing relate to other industries and not-for-profit sectors? What is copyright, how does it affect authorship – and should it continue to do so? What do the decline of print bookshops and the rise of Amazon tell us about the future of the industry, across and beyond the English-speaking world?

These are all intriguing questions, and offer rich scope for Masters-level, interdisciplinary and strategic analysis. But, in this digital era, being able to address such questions does not go far enough to support our students’ career aspirations. To succeed even at interviews for placements, City’s MA students need to show that they are engaged, informed and curious about the commercial future of publishing in the face of digitisation; that they have a flexible, positive and professional attitude to working with others; that they have explored digital products and are curious about their commercial success as well as their imaginative content; and that they are able to present their creative and strategic ideas to professional standards. In short: a very tall order indeed, and the context for what we do as educators.

So, what can and does an MA do in this context, and how can it be relevant to publishing worlds beyond the university – especially when the digital shifts are occurring so rapidly that publishers themselves are struggling to keep pace? An MA is of course a costly personal investment, in time as well as cash – and to gain one of the City MAs, as my students would confirm, is demanding and stretching in terms of intellectual level, breadth and effort. Is it worth it, and what might you experience?

In my own teaching and as programme director, my aim is to ensure that every Publishing module offers a combination of analytical and professional content. As well as writing substantial analytical essays for most modules, and completing a personal Major Project with either an industry or a research focus, you would find yourself writing professional portfolios relating to your placements and projects; working in groups to develop business plans, analyse sales data, devise a strategic response for a non-fiction publisher or develop a book-length children’s project; or developing your own website in response to an industry challenge, and presenting it to members of our Advisory Board.

It is this combination of analysis and practice that, I believe, helps so many of our graduates to gain those all-important, highly competitive jobs and then continue to build successful careers. To quote just a few examples: the 2013-14 jobs so far include roles at Faber, Hodder, SAGE, RandomHouse and Hymns Ancient and Modern; among the 2012-13s class’s almost universal industry success, three US graduates are working in consumer publishing in NY (with jobs in rights, editorial and production), and one of our Italian graduates is now working as our first graduate literary scout – such achievements make the City team very proud!

If you want to hear more about what you might expect to experience as a publishing student at City, have a look our webpages to learn more – and if you can come along to our Postgraduate Information Evening at City University London on 10 September, I look forward to meeting you.


Mary Ann Kernan @maryannkernan @citypublishing

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