Those who can

July 12, 2018

The article “Mr Chips with everything?” (Features, 5 July) explored the relationship between research and teaching.

When I was invited for an interview for an undergraduate place at University College, Cardiff (now Cardiff University), we were shown around and introduced to some of the academics, one of whom was showing off a book that he had just published. When it came to the formal interview, he was a member of the panel and asked what I thought academics did when not teaching.

“Write books to impress prospective students!” was my response – and I got an unconditional offer.



Whether leading researchers are “good” teachers slightly misses the point. I still value the fact that, as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, I was taught by world-leaders. Some of them were also excellent teachers and some were dreadful.

But, for me, the whole point of university was to be challenged and to get some idea of how real mathematicians think. University is not school.


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