Universities must invest in quality teaching for the future of bioscience
- 30 June 2014
Today, the report ‘Improving the status and valuation of teaching in the careers of UK academics’ is published jointly with the Society of Biology, the Heads of University Biosciences (HUBs), the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) and The Physiological Society.
The report states that the world class reputation of UK bioscience graduates is under threat if we continue to undervalue the importance of teaching in academic careers. It calls for an urgent change in culture and points out both the challenges and the opportunities for improvement.
Dr Jeremy Pritchard, chair of the Society of Biology Education, Training and Policy Committee, says: “There is a commonly-perceived hierarchy in Higher Education Institutions that research is more valuable than teaching, and in turn, teaching more valuable than administration. This is counterproductive and must be addressed.”
Despite some progress since the issue was highlighted in a 2010 report by the AMS, much remains to be done to address the imbalance between the reward and recognition of teaching compared to research. A national workshop in March 2014 and a survey of over 250 academics across UK bioscience departments and medical schools showed that areas of particular concern included: teaching training; teaching allocation and parity of esteem between research and teaching; and valuing teaching expertise in recruitment and promotion in the same way as research.
The Society already champions teaching excellence through its activities, including the Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award. The report recommends additional areas for further progress for organisations, universities and individuals.
Concern for teaching quality is currently heightened as institutional income is increasingly arising from student fees. This report is timely as the Government continues to reduce funding for teaching and staff performance in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) continues to dominate promotion criteria and tip the academic career away from teaching.
“The importance of high quality teaching in our universities cannot be stressed enough” says Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology. “We need a culture where teaching is valued to the same extent as research to ensure the UK continues to produce world class bioscience graduates who provide enormous benefits to the economy.”