YES

From the point of view of students, lecturers are there to teach and guide our learning, not facilitate their own.

I am not denying lecturers need to research. It allows them to stay up-to-date with the academic world and to help develop new theories and ideas for their discipline. This can lead back to the students, and may help increase the quality of their teaching.

Time spent on research is time away from students.

But it can’t be denied that time spent on research is time away from students, and it is when this impacts on students that it is significant. Many students are completely unaware that their lecturers may take time off for ‘research leave’ during term to research their own academic areas. In my opinion, this is fundamentally wrong; we are given personal tutors to build relationships with, yet they may leave for a term or two but return later?

Which leads to the next issue. By spending so much time researching, do lecturers lose touch with students, and how to effectively teach? Or even worse, do lecturers choose the profession purely because they can spend time researching and teach a few classes on the side?

Who can blame lecturers for pursuing research when universities encourage it?

But it is also the fault of the universities and wider educational system. Increasingly, there is an emphasis on research in order to gain funding and prestige. Who can blame lecturers for pursuing research when universities encourage it? In 1963, there was a 55:45 split in universities, in favour of teaching. The Universities Minister, David Willets, says that analysis shows it is now a 40:60 split in favour of research at those universities. Considering the £9,000 rise from 1963 to now, this is unacceptable.

Ultimately, a university exists to facilitate higher learning for their students, and the lecturers are the means by which that occurs. If lecturers are spending more time researching than lecturing, shouldn’t they be called researchers?

Goldie Aboutorabi

NO

From a student point of view, giving lectures and taking seminars is just what staff in our departments are FOR. But as we all know, that’s only a part of what an academic really does.

Research should not be a secondary pursuit within the University. In fact, it’s arguably the most important facet of an academic’s job. It’s not about pitting research and teaching against each other. The two should inform, not oppose, the other and there’s certainly room for both in the timetable. It’s about getting the balance right, and that balance should be tipped slightly in favour of research.

It’s a shame if our place in the rankings were to slip because of the new ‘consumer culture’ in education.

The UK’s academic research is acknowledged as some of the best in the world, second only to the US, despite the fact that we only invest only a fraction of government money into it. It’s a shame if our place in the rankings were to slip because of the new ‘consumer culture’ in education, where students demand all of the department’s time.

It’s also not just a selfish decision when departments choose to focus on research. Every university department’s research output is monitored by the Research Excellence Framework (REF), which then allocates funding depending on quality. Many degree costs aren’t covered by tuition fees, even at the increased level of £9,000, so some of the cost of your education might actually be paid for thanks to your lecturer’s research.

It’s beneficial for us as students if our lecturers can boast an excellent research output.

It’s also actually really beneficial for us as students if our lecturers can boast an excellent research output. If we are not taught by people who are active in their fields, how would our syllabuses ever be kept up-to-date?

Whilst we should not accept sub-standard teaching or decreased contact time, we should want, and actively push to be taught by cutting-edge researchers who let their work inform their teaching. That is real value for money.

Ella Funge

Image: Gianpierre Soto via Flickr

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1 Comment

  1. Rob Temperton
    December 24, 2013 at 15:04 — Reply

    This is a pretty narrow sighted article – mainly the yes arguments. Firstly, you are ignoring the large number of students who do research full time for which the benefit of having academic staff doing research is obvious. In terms of the standard taught undergraduate courses which you seem to be focussing your argument on, good courses here feed off the research happening in the school. Some schools, right from first year, run modules that focus of educating students in the world class research that occurs in the departments. Many students pick Nottingham for this reason – they are interested in the research areas that schools specialise in.

    There is also normally a large proportion of the final year (in some courses it is the entire year) where students work essentially full time doing research. How would a physicist, chemist etc. even be able to pretend that their degree has any value without this research component as this is such a fundamental part of what the subjects are about.

    You also can’t ignore the fact that undergrads do get excited about the research that goes on here. In most cases, they want to feel more connected to the research and not less.

    I am not saying that there is not a place for the university to employ academic staff to based on teaching excellence (which is not generally how it currently works) who would essentially do teaching full time. I honestly believe there is a place for this along side academics who do both research and teaching – such teaching positions are actually starting to creep into the UKs academic system which is very much a good thing.

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