The creation of teaching-only universities could seriously damage student learning, say researchers at Oxford Brookes University.
Studies examining the experiences of 250 students reveal that undergraduates and postgraduates believe research-active lecturers make more successful teachers.
Roger Lindsay of Oxford Brookes' psychology department said previous studies had failed to show that academics involved in research were any more highly rated as lecturers. But adopting a different methodology, Dr Lindsay said his study had overturned current thinking.
"Until the early 1990s, it was almost universally accepted that doing research made university lecturers better teachers," he said. "But now it has become generally accepted that teaching quality and research experience are independent of one another."
The turnaround was partly due to the separation of funding and quality auditing for teaching and research. But, according to Dr Lindsay, the present assumption is dangerous and could be to the detriment of all students.
The study, conducted with Alan Jenkins of the Oxford Centre for Staff Development, found that students across eight different university departments were three times more likely to make positive than negative statements about their lecturers' research.
"Both postgraduates and undergraduates think research makes their lecturers more enthusiastic, increases their credibility and makes sure their knowledge is up to date," Dr Lindsay said.
He believes his unstructured interviews and questionnaires with three focus groups of students have uncovered the importance of the link between teaching and research that previous studies have missed.