Research-led is the ideal

June 12, 2008

It is refreshing to read Susan Bassnett admitting that universities sometimes fall short of the research-led teaching ideal because it is expedient to do so, but it is quite another thing to argue that it doesn't matter ("The beauty of pick 'n' mix", 5 June).

I spent eight years in further education, but I aspired to work in research universities because I wanted the freedom to teach more creatively and critically using original scholarship and research.

In my FE college well-qualified colleagues generally taught what they knew: economics graduates taught A-level economics, tourism experts taught aspiring travel agents. The pedagogic standards in FE are often far higher than university academics like to admit, but syllabuses largely consist of received knowledge coded in pre-set syllabuses, so "staying one chapter ahead of the students" is not an unreasonable policy.

University-level teaching is different from that of FE because it involves an original approach to a topic informed by current scholarship and research. In other words it is, or should be, research-led, and this ideal is critical to the integrity of university teaching even if it is not always attained.

Chris Hackley, Royal Holloway, University of London.

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