Revamp dumps old-style teaching

October 6, 2006

For most academics it is the stuff of fantasy. But the dream has become a reality at Bournemouth University, where, under a radical restructure, lecturers will have their teaching loads reduced leaving them more time for research.

The institution plans to drop its "chalk-and-talk" approach to teaching as part of a far-reaching strategy to boost its research standing and secure its long-term future, according to Paul Curran, the vice-chancellor.

He said that the university was looking to expand areas of research in which it was already strong as well as improving research generally to ensure students were learning from academics who were up to speed with the latest thinking in their fields.

But Professor Curran, who took over a year ago, said that Bouremouth academics had such onerous teaching duties that they had little or no time for research.

"The amount of lectures will decrease but that does not mean contact time between staff and students will go down," he said. A variety of learning tools and techniques will be employed in place of lectures, including more self-directed learning and project-based activities for students.

Professor Curran said that while Bournemouth was a successful university in terms of student recruitment and financial health it had to think of the future.

"If you look forward to 2009-10, undergraduate numbers will be dropping because of demographic changes and the cap on fees may have been raised," he said.

"It will be a much more competitive market and we have to be able to offer a student experience that is one of the best in the UK. It will be difficult to do that with the current focus on teaching to the detriment of research," Professor Curran added.

He wants Bournemouth to shed its "vocational" image to become a university with a healthy research base specialising in professional courses. "It is about being academically led, not research or teaching led. It is about finding a balance between teaching, research and enterprise," he said.

There are plans to change the type of courses offered to students with an emphasis on introducing more traditional subjects, such as English, history and even some of the big sciences. But Professor Curran said that these would be offered in conjunction with professional courses, for example journalism and English.

The university, which has recently rebranded itself, has announced 80 fully funded PhD studentships to boost research. Further academic recruitment is expected soon. A building programme is also planned.

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