There is an urgent need for research into the value of fieldwork in order to defend it against continuing budget cuts, a reader in biogeography has warned.
Martin Kent of Plymouth University said there was universal agreement that fieldwork was essential to biogeography in that it took students into the real world, and was one of the most effective ways of teaching.
But we need research into why it is so effective. We haven't got objective evidence," said Dr Kent. At a time when students were being obliged to bear an increasing proportion of fieldwork costs themselves,it was crucial to justify its role.
In the past, departments had underwritten the bulk of fieldwork costs, but this had now dropped to a third or a quarter as student numbers continued to rise and departmental resources dropped.
Some students were known to be taking out loans to cover their contribution, Dr Kent said.