The rules governing the next research assessment exercise are to be changed to allow academics interested in research into teaching to submit their work on an equal footing with other researchers.
The shift is to be announced soon by the Higher Education Funding Council for England following a large-scale consultation on the criteria for assessing research.
John Rogers, RAE manager at the funding council, said concerns about the treatment of pedagogic research had been raised by a considerable number of respondents.
"This is a reflection of the extent to which research in the disciplines has moved on," he said. "There is much more attention now being paid to teaching and learning in higher education and we are trying to ensure this work gets treated equitably. In response we have advised the panels that they should accept higher education pedagogic research as a valued and valid form of research activity and to develop appropriate methods to assess it."
In 2001 pedagogic research will be able to be submitted either to education or to a subject panel "with equal confidence", said Mr Rogers. He said the assessment of higher education pedagogy beyond 2001 would be considered further through the current fundamental review of the RAE.
Previously, pedagogic research was almost wholly assessed by education panels. This had dismayed many researchers who wanted their work to be judged within their own discipline. It was thought to be a significant disincentive to spend time and money on pedagogic research which, as a consequence, was badly sidelined.
Stephen Rowland, director of Sheffield University's higher education research centre, gave the news a cautious welcome: "This is certainly moving in the right direction but in my view it is not yet going far enough," he said. "It still leaves a bit of a muddle and I doubt the shift will be enough to persuade the big research universities to give more emphasis to teaching."