LETTER: New universities underfunded

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From Mr David Triesman

Sir: The finding ("Teaching at new universities fails to make the grade", 12 October) that ratings for teaching excellence tend to coincide with research excellence ratings is unsurprising. The ethos of a university largely depends on the interrelation between research and teaching. The traditional universities have, traditionally, been funded to undertake research alongside teaching both undergraduates and postgraduate students. The new universities have not benefited from that tradition to the same degree, despite many important initiatives often supported by the enthusiasm of their staff.

There is much evidence to suggest that the new universities could more successfully contribute to the research and development powerhouse of UK plc, given the appropriate resources.

The special earmarked "development research" fund needs to be enhanced significantly to allow the new universities a fairer share of research resources. The process, however, must involve additional resources and not be part of a robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul, robbing-old-to-pay-new, process. That would be government shooting itself in both feet. It would be absurd to diminish the quality of research in the older universities both because of its intrinsic value and its contribution to teaching excellence.

Research is investment in the nation's future. Good investment pays for itself. Universities, old and new, are starved of resources, which affects not just the development of the nation's wealth but also what its people achieve through higher education teaching.

Yours faithfully,

David Triesman

General Secretary, Association

of University Teachers

London, W11