Teaching first is lesson from US

June 16, 2000

The paying public sees teaching as the main job of university faculty in the United States, with research second, "and it wants to see results", according to Peg Miller, president of the American Association for Higher Education, who gave a keynote speech at Stirling University this week.

Highlighting the tension between research and teaching that is fuelling debate in UK universities, Professor Miller said that assessment was under pressure.

"Assessment and technology are the top two issues facing educators. It means looking at how people learn. The problem is we haven't assessed how traditional methods have worked... and now many students will be online," she said.

Professor Miller was speaking at a conference on innovation and creativity in teaching and learning, organised by the Society for Research into Higher Education.

The conference attracted partic-ipants bubbling with ideas from their research into teaching.

But it was Sally Brown, deputy principal at Stirling and chair of the 2001 research assessment exercise panel on education, who spoke of the funding Catch-22 teachers and researchers face in the UK.

Professor Brown told partic-ipants: "If universities get poor RAE ratings, they get less money. This leads to more routine teaching and the abandonment of research.

"If the RAE results are good, researchers are brought in to spend time on research. There is a gradual separation of research and teaching, with much teaching done by part-timers and postgraduate students," she said.

"The irony is that students never get to see the 'stars' who attracted them there in the first place."

THESDiary, page 8

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