Teaching-research link valuable

December 11, 1998

The teaching or research debate occupies so much discussion in higher education and I have enormous personal sympathy for colleagues and students in the department of earth sciences at Sheffield where the decision has clearly come down on the side of research ("Parents angry at earth's move", THES, December 4).

But another facet of the debate was raised by Steven Kennedy in his article ("In defence of the textbook" THES, November ).

Kennedy makes the point that textbooks have not been replaced by the internet or by course handbooks. For the undergraduate a good course textbook remains an investment the student is willing to make. But for the overworked academic they are very time-consuming to produce, rarely highly regarded by colleagues and, worst of all, do not count in your research assessment submission. As a result, the specialists who should be inspiring our students with exciting new books spend their time writing esoteric articles read by a few hundred fellow academics.

When will it be recognised that "scholarship" is a broad church and both the best teachers and the best researchers must have the time and freedom to produce undergraduate texts that are clearly needed without being censured for "insufficient research effort"?

Jim Griffiths Department of geological sciences University of Plymouth, Devon

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