Lessons in teaching

April 24, 1998

James Wright is correct ("False premise makes for wrong policy", THES, April 17). There is no evidence that one-off funding allocations will lead to lasting quality improvements.

At best, they lead to more games-playing as institutions apply their intellects to exploiting the rules. At worst, they lead to a transfer of resources to those already well funded. Nor is it easy to see how a process-based rewards system fits alongside a threshold-level outcomes-based system of quality assurance.

If, however, the government does want institutions to give more priority to teaching, there are two obvious remedies that are entirely in its hands.

One is to abolish the research assessment exercise, or at least to confine it to subject/disciplines where the cost of research is disproportionately high. This would not remove the lack of parity of esteem between teaching and research, but it would send a very powerful signal to the academic community.

The other remedy is to channel a much higher proportion of funding via the student as all of the evidence suggests that one thing students really do care about is high-quality teaching.

Are ministers serious or not?

Roger Brown Principal Southampton Institute

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