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'Funding monster' means teaching plays second fiddle, UCU tells Willetts

21 October 2013 | last updated: 14 March 2019

David Willetts's call for a 'cultural change back towards teaching' in UK universities is at odds with his government's creation of a 'funding monster' that values research as the holy grail of academia, says UCU today.

Writing in a pamphlet entitled Robbins Revisited published by the Social Market Foundation, the Minister for Universities and Science argues less time is spent on teaching in universities than in the past as the balance has shifted too far in favour of research.

But UCU argues that the creation of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) through which universities earn additional funding and status, has given many academics little option but to focus on research. In fact, research is seen by many university lecturers as the key to career progression.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'David Willetts tells us the pendulum has swung too far away from teaching but that's because the government has created a funding monster that financially rewards universities, and in turn individual academics, judged to be doing certain types of research.

'Maybe he needs to reconsider the wisdom of the Research Excellence Framework for as long as that system exists in its current form, teaching is always going to play second fiddle. There needs to be a less high-stakes research funding system and better career opportunities for teaching focussed staff.'