Letter: Bitter divorce

November 10, 2000

Those of us concerned at the impending, if not already total, divorce between teaching and research (Letters, THES , November 3) will be further depressed by the recommendations of the Higher Education Funding Council for England's final report on the fundamental review of research policy and funding.

If these recommendations are accepted, teaching and research are unlikely to be on speaking terms at all, and both will be impoverished as a result.

Hefce's report places scholarship, teaching and research in separate, exclusive categories. It recommends that scholarship should not be funded through the normal research channels associated with the research assessment exercise.

This move would disqualify from research funding those scholarly activities that most closely inform teaching. Moreover, such a narrow definition of research would also disqualify many critical studies in the arts and humanities. This would mark a significant narrowing of the criteria offered as guidelines to assessment panels for RAE 2001.

It would serve to further de-intellectualise academic life, and for that very reason lower the status of teaching and impoverish critical research.

The status of teaching will not be raised by efforts to train teachers and reward teaching alone. Important though these objectives are, we also need to develop institutional, funding and accountability arrangements that promote the learning of students and staff as mutually supportive aspects of an academic life that is concerned to critique, as well as to increase, public knowledge and values.

What is needed is not a battle to enhance the status of teaching vis-à-vis research, or of the so-called teaching-led, as against research-led, institutions, but a determination to assert the academic values of learning against those of a narrowly conceived market orientation.

Stephen Rowland
Higher Education Research and Development Unit
University College London

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