Undervalued, not overqualified

December 21, 2007

In my discipline of psychology, the relevance of empirical engagement and scholarship to high-quality teaching would not be questioned. Given this, it is imperative for all teachers in higher education to have some level of opportunity to pursue research and scholarship. We must not confuse the ability to obtain top rankings in the research assessment exercise with the likelihood of being able to sustain some level of worthwhile research activity.

Thus the notion that "teaching-only" contracts will add value and prestige to teaching, rather than ultimately detract from teaching quality, is to be resisted. The reality is that such contracts are being foisted on academics in institutions that put RAE achievement above all else. These academics are then given bigger teaching and assessment loads and no time for protected research. Not surprisingly, they then become highly demoralised.

As a psychologist, I have observed the impact of the RAE on colleagues. It is time we realised how destructive the ever-increasingly selective process has been. All colleagues should be able to experience the thrill of communicating ideas to the next generation, kept alive and invigorated by active engagement in furthering their discipline.

Tony Ward, Head of psychology and counselling, Newman College of Higher Education.

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