Sunday 21 October, 5.00pm until 6.15pm, Frobisher 4-6
Higher education has been a bitterly contested subject in the past couple of years, from rows about the increase in student tuition fees and the Browne Report to open discussion about what the university is for. Academics have reacted angrily to government plans to quantify research in terms of its economic and social impact, which they say diminishes the value of academic research and the open-ended pursuit of knowledge.
Yet there is another little-discussed aspect to contemporary academic research, which may pose an even greater threat its value; that is, the relentless pressure on academics to produce what are known as research outcomes. All university departments now regularly institute research strategies, requiring academics to produce a minimum number of publications and apply for grants in a specified period of time. Departments are keen to create ‘research clusters’ in which academics, whose work may have little in common, are expected to collaborate on research outcomes, such as publications and grant applications. Individual lecturers are regularly monitored to ensure they are producing research. There is a vast research industry dedicated to publishing the ever-expanding number of papers and books, most of which serve little purpose other than to fulfil the research quotas that are demanded.
Is this a triumph for the importance of research as an end in itself? Or when research becomes an end unanchored to intellectual content, interest or any genuine contribution to knowledge, does it lose its value?
emeritus professor, English and American studies, Middlesex University; author, Riot City: protest and rebellion in the capital
|Dr Richard Howells|
reader in Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King's College London
|Professor James Ladyman|
Head of Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol
|Dr Vanessa Pupavac|
associate professor; co-director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, University of Nottingham
Dr Tara McCormack
lecturer in international politics, University of Leicester; author, Critique, Security and Power: the political limits to emancipatory approaches
Universities 'falling over themselves' to hire staff to handle REF case studies.Paul Jump, Times Higher Education, 11 October 2012
Most humanities 'research' is the self-indulgent pursuit of obscure hobbies that neither need nor merit funding, and produces only unsold, unread and unreadable books, argues Clive BloomClive Bloom, Times Higher Education, 13 May 2010