Research: is it essential?

May 2, 1997

A genuine debate is slowly emerging about the relationship between teaching and research in higher education (THES, April 18). It was interesting to compare the thoughts of Alan Jenkins in his excellent article about teaching quality with those expressed in the letter from Philip Cerny, with its odd assertion that "it is hard to be an excellent teacher without an inside knowledge of research". Clearly, the response to that will depend on one's definition of research; but I have encountered many excellent teachers who do no research in the sense Cerny means.

They all share a love of study and the pursuit of scholarship, which is not quite the same thing. On the other hand, there is a surfeit of competent researchers who are embarrassingly inadequate teachers.

In the creative arts defining research is a knotty problem as their essence is not statistical or empirical but aesthetic and experiential. Yet the research assessment exercise seemed to value even the most arid piece of published prose more highly than artistic output.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

Head of music activities

University of Reading

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