Research into teaching and learning in higher education could receive a significant boost if plans to include it in the next research assessment exercise go ahead.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England is seeking comments on the idea because, it says, there is some feeling that the education unit of assessment is too large and too diverse. It is recommending therefore that the area be broken down to include specifically pedagogic research.
Two options are under consideration: either a separate assessment takes place for research into schools and for research into higher education, or the category is split between research on education policy and pedagogic research. University academics are likely to favour the first option which gives a specific focus to research on higher education, an area hitherto neglected by the RAE.
"This is very good news," said David Baume of the Open University's centre for higher education practice. "To date, research into the pedagogy of disciplines has not been highly valued by the assessment panels. It is very important that the panels start giving appropriate weight to this."
As part of its consultation on the RAE, published last month, HEFCE is also considering reconfiguring medical units of assessment for the next RAE. It is likely that sub-panels will be convened beneath three umbrella panels since dividing up the units of assessment any further would not reflect the interdisciplinary nature of much of the work.
Business and management studies and art and design are also deemed to be too broadly defined for assessment and Hefce is inviting comments on how these subjects should be divided into sub-panels.