Time to work together, Academic Book Trade Conference told

Time to work together, Academic Book Trade Conference told

The academic book trade must “work together in these turbulent times”, in the face of Brexit, political turmoil and the impact of the Teaching Excellence Framework, the Academic Book Trade Conference was told this morning (9th May).

Lynne O’Neill, chair of the Booksellers Association Academic Booksellers Group, stressed higher education has encouraging long term prospects but warned there are short term concerns including the potential loss of European research funding. She said: “We really need to work together, more so than ever before...The landscape has changed for all of us.”

Brexit uncertainty loomed large over the conference, in Kenilworth, as Higher Education commentator Louis Coiffait said there has been a 9% drop in EU postgraduates at Russell Group universities. However despite the drop in EU students and fears of funding cuts, Coiffait said the sector is in an “enviable position” with a growing global demand for UK Higher Education in English. Universities are also playing bigger parts in their local communities, he said, suggesting bookshops have a key role in helping universities with their community outreach programmes.

O’Neill agreed that UK Higher Education retains a “strong international reputation” but predicted that Brexit and political uncertainty in general "have the potential to make life difficult”, with the Glasgow University vice-chancellor [Anton Muscatelli] branding the current climate the “most troubling times for universities in recent memory”.

Issuing a rallying cry to attendees, O’Neill highlighted hopes for increased investment in library content, and improved store designs and online offererings. “We all need to work harder and smarter to make those sales and there are positive signs,” she said.

The two-day conference will consider the impact of Brexit, the TEF, Open Access, university finances and what booksellers want from publishers.