Like blogging, Twitter is becoming an important way for academics to engage a wider audience. So I was interested to read about the extent to which politics departments in British universities are embracing Twitter, and whether they have found an audience.
The study, conducted by members of the School of Politics and International Relations at Nottingham, was revealing. They found 33 departments with a Twitter account, with an average of 646 followers. They ranged from the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London, with over 4,000 followers, to Bath’s Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies, with a mere 50 followers.
You can’t read too much into these figures, but they tell us something about the way that departments in one discipline are trying to communicate. So I thought I’d look at university departments of education, to see how they compare.
Using the list of members of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, I found seventeen departments with a Twitter account. Like the Nottingham study, I only counted official departmental Twitter accounts; plenty of specialist research centres have Twitter accounts, and countless individual academics, but for the purposes of this exercise, I ignored them. I did include the Institute of Education, though it is effectively a single-subject university in its own right.
Inevitably, I will have missed some departments, so if your own Twitter account is missing, please let me know. In exchange, you have now been told that someone searched for your account and failed to find it.
So here is my provisional league table:
University @ Followers
Institute of Education IOE_London 8,418
Brighton EduBrighton 760
Sheffield EducationSheff 566
Cumbria CumbriaUniEd 430
Huddersfield EduHudUni 359
Newcastle secls 259
West of Scotland UWSEducation 224
Reading UniRdg_IoE 209
Nottingham UoNSoE 208
Kings, London KingsDEPS 196
Cambridge UCFEnews 165
Bristol GSOEBristol 138
Oxford Brookes BrookesEdu 126
Queens Belfast QUBSOE 122
Stirling SoEStirling 72
Southampton SotonEd 69
Herefordshire UH_Education 22
At first sight, it seems that education departments are not using Twitter nearly as much as our colleagues in politics departments. This is particularly striking given the number and size of education departments in the UK higher education sector. I’m also struck by the limited number of followers for most of the education departments, which may imply that a bit more thought needs to go into the content of our Tweets. And it confirms the pre-eminence of the London Institute in our field.
That’s all at the aggregate, official departmental level. What we don’t know is what sort of use people are making of Twitter. To answer that, we’d need a more qualitative understanding of a wider range of activity.