Tyranny of research 1

August 31, 2007

Your front page story "Awesome teaching may be a dead end" (August 24) superbly reflects the utter madness of the current research-obsessed regime in universities.

We have record numbers of students paying thousands of pounds to study for a degree, yet university managers constantly make clear to their staff (while denying it in public, of course) that teaching is not important and is not the route to a successful academic career.

Instead, the only yardstick by which academics are appointed or promoted is their research output: the number of monographs and journal articles published, conference papers presented overseas and sums obtained through research grants.

To stand up and defend the importance or pleasure of teaching students will earn you looks of horror or contempt from many academic colleagues and managers, and mutterings that perhaps you are in the wrong job.

All of this, though, is the logical but perverse outcome of a university regime that has elevated the research assessment exercise into the status of a primitive god who must be regularly placated by being offered ever more research outputs, coupled with the sacrifice of teaching.

I dare not add my name or institution to this letter because the tyranny of research is so endemic in universities these days that it is not safe to criticise it openly for fear of damaging one's career.

Name and address withheld

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