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The Society for Research into Higher Education

Ian Kinchin


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Student evaluation of teaching: are we reaching for the wrong type of excellence?

By Ian Kinchin

Over twenty years ago Carr (1994: 49) wrote:

 ‘It is a shallow and false view of education and teaching which takes it to be a matter of the technical transmission of pre-packaged knowledge and skills in the context of efficient management’

However, it seems that this false view is still able obscure a more contemporary and research-informed views of teaching. The on-going drive for ‘teaching excellence’ still seems to focus on actions of the teacher that promote Carr’s ‘shallow view’. That is not to say that the student voice is not important, but we need to ensure that students are asked the right questions so that we do not promote student passivity as learners and do not subvert the student voice for purely political ends.

Fitzgerald et al (2002) wrote Continue reading

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The contradictions of a conservative: David Willetts in and out of office

By Rob Cuthbert

Lord Willetts gave the annual Chancellor’s Lecture at the University of Gloucestershire on 13 October 2016, a university where the Chancellor, Dame Rennie Fritchie, was previously a Civil Service Commissioner, and the VC Stephen Marston was previously a senior civil servant who worked on HE policy with Minister Willetts. But this was not a cosy chat among friends, it was a considered assessment of the state of the university in a global context. It was fluent, it was selectively erudite, and it was possible to believe that Lord Willetts, though not at all boastful, thought he had been a winner as Minister for Universities and Science in the coalition government. Certainly he was aiming to write history, as winners do, even though his subject was the future.

His history began with some of the ‘perverse effects’ of English HE, which he said had for 50 years been beset with a nationwide competition between universities, a situation he blamed partly on the creation of a national university admission system (UCCA, in the 1960s). In the rest of the world it was normal to go to your local university. The English competition led to a university ‘arms race’, which he deplored. It was hard to remember that this was the Minister who argued so strongly for competition between universities as the essential vehicle to drive up the quality of teaching.

The decline in HE’s unit of resource from the 1980s through to the 2000s had, he said, only been reversed when, during his tenure as Minister, undergraduate fees had risen to £9000pa. The new funding regime had then enabled the Coalition government Continue reading