Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 115

Supplementary evidence from the Department for Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills following the oral evidence session on 11 May 2009

  The Department and HEFCE welcome this opportunity to provide additional data and to clarify the points raised in the evidence session on 11 May 2009

Q531—the exact quote from NCEE report;

In its report to Ministers in October 2008, the National Council for Educational Excellence made a range of recommendations including

    "HEIs should continue to use, and where possible expand the range of, all the information available to them to identify the best students with the greatest potential and ability to reach the highest academic achievement. In the interests of openness and fairness, institutions should publish their admissions policies and make them easily accessible to applicants, and equip all those involved in admissions to implement the policy consistently."

Q544—figures on numbers of first and 2:1s, I think the Chairman may have had in mind the increase from the early 1990s;

  Due to the increase in the numbers of students participating in Higher Education, the actual number of firsts awarded by UK HEIs has risen from 19,470 to 41,150 (up by 111%) between 97/98 and 07/08. This compares to a rise in the total number of degrees awarded of 29% (258,755 to 334,890). The increase in 1sts appears much more dramatic because the percentage increase is based on a smaller number.

  However the increase in the proportions of graduates awarded a 1st class or 2.1 degree appears much smaller: an increase between 1997/98 to 2007/08 from 8.2% to 13.3% for firsts, and 45.5% to 48.1% for upper seconds.

  The attached Annex gives a time series.

  The 2003 White Paper acknowledged increasing numbers of 1st and upper-2nd class degrees being awarded and asked HEFCE to convene a review group with the sector to consider possible alternative methods for presenting the overall achievement of students. That led to setting up the 'Burgess Group' which proposed the HE Achievement Report (HEAR). The HEAR will provide a more detailed academic record for students alongside their overall degree classification.

Q568—is there research evidence established the relationship between research and good teaching.

  The Government established a Higher Education Research Forum which met during 2004. In addition to acting as a sounding board for research reforms, the Forum was asked to advise on two specific issues, one of which was the relationship between teaching and research.

  The Forum concluded that the evidence base supporting a link between research activity and teaching quality is limited.

  In response to Mr Marsden's request to Sir Alan Langlands, information is attached from HEFCE about recent reports on the subject of research informed teaching.

  1.  The link between research and teaching has been of increasing interest to researchers over the last 20 years, with the balance of the evidence ebbing and flowing. The evidence is not strong in demonstrating a direct link between research and the quality of teaching. However, studies also note that there are many tangential and ephemeral aspects that impact on teaching that are hard to pin down.

  2.  To summarise, early studies generally concluded that there is no necessary relationship between teaching and research. However, studies focusing on student perceptions have shown that students value learning in a research environment. Hattie and Marsh (1996, 529) conducted a large meta analysis of research studies in this area and concluded that there was no inextricable link between research and teaching, but that purposeful action by universities could bring about that linkage, through actions such as better training for staff in teaching, through curriculum change, and by being explicit about good teaching at university level being about more than imparting information.

  3.  The Higher Education Academy has published two documents on this area, and is about to publish a third. The two published reports will be sent to the committee in hard copy and can also be downloaded; they have extensive bibliographies.

  Institutional strategies to link teaching and research, Jenkins, A and Healey, M—October 2005


  Linking teaching and research disciplines and departments, Jenkins, A, Healey, M and Zetter, R—April 2007

  4.  Paul Ramsden, the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy, has published, with others, evidence on academics' experience of research and its relationship to their experience of teaching. This is also available (Prosser et al 2008).

  5.  Much of the evidence focuses on two areas: the experience of academics and perceptions of better teaching because of connection to research; and improved undergraduate curricula that include areas more traditionally associated with research. These studies tend to suggest that students are reporting better experiences, or believe their work is more up to date, because teachers are either (a) research-active or (b) engaged in some level of scholarship. Changes to teaching to better link it to research include: introducing more and longer supervised student projects, more courses on research methods and techniques, coursework assessment that promotes student enquiry, approaches that draw students into examining and questioning knowledge, and harnessing the enthusiasm for their subject of experienced researchers and those engaged in scholarship.

  6.  HEFCE's funding has recognised the value of connecting teaching and research, and that research studies had shown that links between the two are not automatic (see Hattie and Marsh above). Thus, drawing on the evidence then available, as part of the Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund, institutions that received low or no QR funding received an allocation to support research informed teaching.

  7.  The Higher Education Academy, in congruence with its quality enhancement role has been supporting this funding initiative. It has produced the reports mentioned above and held various events to assist, firstly, institutions in strategic development of links between research and teaching and, secondly, to help departments and individual academics develop their skills and curricula to enhance the synergies between research and teaching.

  8.  Similarly, experiences reported by Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning suggest success in offering university teachers small amounts of developmental funding to allow them to engage in scholarship.

May 2005


Hattie, J and Marsh, H W (1996) 'The relationship between research and teaching: a meta analysis', Review of Educational Research, 66(4), 507-542.

Prosser M, Martin E, Trigwell K, Ramsden P, Middleton H (2008) 'University academics' experience of research and its relationship to their experience of teaching', Instructional Science, 36, 3-16.

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