Teaching truths? 1

December 13, 2002

One has to sympathise with the teaching-quality problems faced by Graham Gibbs' daughters at their research university ("Research strategy limits the teaching of students", THES , November 29).

One has less sympathy with his analysis in Exchange , the Learning and Teaching Support Network's publication, that links poor student support to research activity. This is not supported by evidence from the Quality Assurance Agency, the research assessment exercise and my school.

People who excel in teaching and research are usually those with the greatest competence in administration and leadership. If this were not true, life would be much easier. For example, it would mean that appointing a leading researcher as our quality director would not deprive postgraduates of a charismatic and effective teacher.

RAE and QAA results for business and management show that 75 per cent of 5 and 5* rated units of assessment have excellent teaching ratings compared with 41 per cent of units that the RAE rated as 4 and below.

Maybe Gibbs' conclusions result from the danger of generalising from a small sample of two relatives. Doubtless his daughters are not being treated well. That could be because research universities have departments that do not excel in research and research departments have people who are not good at research, teaching or anything else.

John Saunders
Head, Aston Business School

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