Letter: No apology for a summer of research

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leader ("Lessons of the scramble for university places", 19 August) proposes one explanation for current admissions procedures: "It looks as though the nation's academics are reluctant to give up their research, trips to foreign universities or just their month in the Dordogne for the sake of ... a post A-level admissions system that will secure fairness and peace of mind for thousands of young people." I would like to offer a different perspective.

Our universities are built on the twin pillars of teaching and research. The range of courses, quality of tuition and educational opportunities provided by research-led universities depend crucially on the quality and diversity of lecturers' research. A research community which is able to recruit and retain the best educators, to offer the most innovative courses of study, to forge links with sister institutions around the world and to attract the cream of visiting professors, provides an unrivalled learning environment. I am not embarrassed to refuse to "give up my research", partly because that would be tantamount to giving up on my students, too. Research is what I am paid (not much) to do.

But my research is under threat. With deep cuts in government funding and declining staff/student ratios come extra teaching, extra exam setting and marking, additional pastoral responsibilities and more administration, to say nothing of our monstrously resource-intensive quality assessment procedures and the time and money we are now obliged to waste competing in the educational "marketplace". Research gets squeezed out to evenings and weekends. The summer recess (from the beginning of July, when examination boards are completed, to the start of September, when meetings resume) is now the only period in which conferences, networking with colleagues in institutions abroad and substantial research projects may be undertaken. A month in the Dordogne sounds very attractive, but I have only managed one, 10-day summer holiday in the last three years.


Law Department

University of Nottingham