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Universities 'need shift of emphasis'

UNIVERSITIES should shift staff and resources away from research towards new methods of teaching to cope with expanding student numbers, a group of university heads said yesterday, writes Donald Macleod.

Calling for a pounds 50m a year Teaching and Learning Board to be set up, the Committee of Scottish University Principals said that schemes to introduce new technology at universities were too small and uncoordinated.

The proposed board should foster teaching resources that could be shared between universities. It should also stimulate innovation in teaching and learning support.

The report, which seems likely to provoke hostility from a profession strongly wedded to research, will be considered by the higher education funding councils in England, Wales and Scotland.

Professor Alistair MacFarlane, Principal of Heriot-Watt University, said universities were doing too little, too slowly to tackle the 'formidable problem' of how to teach greatly increased numbers of students. 'We can't all split atoms or do radio astronomy, but we can all do something. A lot of people in universities should now start devoting their intellectual energies to high-quality teaching.' Teaching had for too long been a poor relation of research.