Teaching still far from parity

November 19, 2015

Richard Black is right to highlight the need for debate around the Green Paper (“Higher education Green Paper: have universities really neglected teaching?”, 9 November), but I am not sure that he is on solid ground in either his implicit defence of the research excellence framework or his views on the importance placed on teaching in universities.

It is hard to justify the £246 million spent on the REF. Even worse, as an exercise it has failed against almost all the objectives defined when set up. It has also led to more concentration of research funding.

Black is right that most of the effort of academics and bureaucracy in our institutions is already devoted to teaching. But I am not sure that a “whole raft of committees”, departments and dedicated staff is quite the same as giving teaching the same priority as research. I too have taught in several universities, but I can’t think of any that gave teaching the same recognition in status, promotions or resource allocation. I find it hard to imagine many universities highlighting a high ranking in the National Student Survey in the same way they flag REF successes. Equally, I’d be surprised if as many chairs or deanships are awarded for great teaching as for joint authorship of a paper in a 4-star journal.

Teaching quality is far more diffuse, harder to quantify and subject to wider cultural differences than research. The great lecturer may be poor at student support, even worse in group work, while the author of a 4-star paper is far less likely to be an inadequate scholar or researcher. None of this obviates the case for seeking solutions and internal equity in status, promotions and resource allocation. Perhaps abandoning the failed REF would be a better way forward, while spending the money saved on teaching support or even research.

Tom Cannon
Via timeshighereducation.com

Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com

Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday. View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Post-doctoral Research Associate in Chemistry

University Of Western Australia

PACE Data Support Officer

Macquarie University - Sydney Australia

Associate Lecturer in Nursing

Central Queensland University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham

The University of Aberdeen

Tim Ingold and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen have created a manifesto that they hope will preserve higher education's true values

Interactive app at natural history museum

If the outcomes of ‘active learning’ are so much better than those for traditional lectures, why stick with the old format? asks Simone Buitendijk