Tyranny of research 2

August 31, 2007

As you say in your editorial "Destined to be second best" (August 24), repeated assurances from institutions that teaching and research share absolute equality do not represent reality.

You are right to identify money as a problem.

You are partly right to say that institutions do not benefit directly from excellent teaching. Vice-chancellors, pro vice-chancellors and directors of this and that benefit greatly. It is the staff who actually teach students who do not benefit.

The impotence of the Higher Education Academy is not attributable to its poor endowment but to its motivation and governance. Having swallowed the Institute for Learning and Teaching (the former independent "professional association" dedicated to enhancing the status of teaching), the HEA holds itself accountable solely to those very "institutions" you rightly criticise. Furthermore, it declares that resources are not within its remit.

The solution is not "badly tutored students...voting with their feet". That would simply provoke the "managers" to impose more punitive bureaucracy, targets, benchmarks and management-consulto-babble. This would then be used to justify more power and bigger salaries - but not for teachers.

Professional teaching staff do want to teach well. Trust them. Give the people who actually teach the mechanisms to hold "managers" accountable. See them jump then.

Philip Burgess
Perthshire, Scotland

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