Academics wish to keep dual role

September 12, 2003

Most academics are committed to both teaching and research activities and the synergy between the two informs their work, a conference heard this week.

Chris Webster, professor of urban planning at Cardiff University, surveyed 140 academics in the physical sciences, arts and humanities in old and new universities. Two-thirds of them saw strong links between teaching and research, while 4 per cent saw no link between the activities.

Professor Webster said: "The vast majority are interested in both teaching and research and seek to do both. They see the importance of a balanced teaching and research job, and that doing all teaching or all research is not in their or their students' interests.

"But they are constrained by time. They are being forced to specialise and it's a bad thing, inasmuch as teaching enhances research and research enhances teaching."

Professor Webster pointed out that the proposal that 80 per cent of staff contracted to do research should be submitted to future research assessment exercises, put forward in Sir Gareth Roberts' research assessment review for the joint funding bodies, would encourage universities to change their strategies.

His survey asked academics whether an interest in their subject kept them actively exploring more effective ways to teach. Most respondents agreed it did, with architects, historians and economists agreeing most strongly.

Academics were also asked whether researching their subject in depth had helped them to develop more effective ways of communicating knowledge to students - and most agreed. Most also agreed that taking teaching seriously had helped them to develop more effective research.

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