Following our recent education posts on this blog, it is perhaps not surprising to find that universities are continuing to come under fire in the media for the strategies they are currently adopting. This time, they have been criticised in a report just released for prioritising “the pursuit of supposed research excellence” over improving the student learning experience. The two professors quoted in the THE article published 19 February argue that universities are currently focused too heavily on students publications and research achievements. Therefore, the outcome is that students who can demonstrate the skills required to secure these objectives are likely to be favoured over those who need to focus on other areas of learning, both in terms of the teaching they receive at the institution and their future career opportunities.
As mentioned in an earlier post, it has been considered that one of the reasons why universities tend to focus on research excellence is to improve their standing in the higher education league tables. The benefit of this positioning is that it is likely to attract more students, higher fees and greater financial contribution from the private sector. However, the challenge of this approach is that it reduces the numbers of students who graduate with appropriate skills and competences required for the workplace.
Of course, research capibilities and excellence are important and should not be completely devalued. However, it is equally important for students to have the learning and knowledge to be able to appreciate and address the challenges that they will face in the practical workplace environment. Career development is founded on the ability of the employee to be able to understake their roles and duties in a manner that will contribute to a successful outcome for the business or organisation they are working for, Furthermore, they will also need to understand and account for the influence that internal and external forces are likely to have on their decision-making process.
It is time for higher education policy-makers to review their current strategy and to develop a more measured approach towards the aim and objectives of these organisations. The new approach must include the right balance of approach to learning and education objectives, which needs to comprise of research and career focused outcomes for students.
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