Defining and delivering ‘Research-Intensive Learning and Teaching’ at the University of Birmingham.
On Monday 23rd October 2017, we are reopening the Big Conversation for dialogue across the University on the topic of our distinctive ‘value proposition’ for students.
By any international measure, UK Higher Education is extraordinarily successful. Yet, despite that success on the global stage, we have come under sustained critical scrutiny at home – from politicians, the public and the media. Research-intensive universities have been challenged to prove that ‘research-intensive’ is as much about students as it is about research; and that teaching is valued sufficiently by academics and the institution. More specifically, we have been challenged to be clearer about what we do in our teaching that is unique to research-intensives.
Many of us feel we know the answers to these questions yet – when faced with these challenges – research intensives struggled to articulate a position that convinced the critics. As a result, both the Russell Group and Universitas 21 undertook new work last year to crystallise the benefits of studying in research intensive universities.
We led the U21 work. In societal contexts where funding and ‘value for money’ are increasingly contested, the U21 group thought it was important to ask the question:
- What is the value proposition for students studying at contemporary research intensive universities?
The outcome of this work is the U21 Position Statement which was signed off by the Presidents/Vice Chancellors at their meeting earlier this year.
The follow-on question we must now ask ourselves is:
- What is the distinctive value proposition for students studying at the University of Birmingham?
My starting proposition for the Conversation is that I want to drop the term ‘research-led teaching’ because it hasn’t chimed with the public and we are all using it in different ways. Instead of talking about ‘research-led teaching’ I am suggesting that we need to be bolder and focus on conceptualising and delivering the more dynamic concept of ‘research-intensive learning’ for students. My thesis is that research intensive learning for students is the necessary outcome of our research-intensive teaching. Moreover, research-intensive learning is the kind of learning that generates the most sought-after and transferable employability skills.
So, in the quest to clarify our value proposition, we need to ask ourselves a number of specific questions:
- What is research-intensive learning for students at the University of Birmingham?
- How can we ensure that, through our research-intensive teaching, every student at every level is engaged in research-intensive learning?
- Do we need to do anything differently to achieve our ambition for research-intensive learning?
Please do add your thoughts to this discussion. The Big Conversation on this topic is open until mid December.
Kathy Armour, PVC-Education