Raising the status of research into higher education: findings from a survey in Scotland and implications for pedagogic research internationally

  • Raising the status of research into higher education: findings from a survey in Scotland and implications for pedagogic research internationally

    Catherine Bovill, Academic Development Unit, Learning and Teaching Centre, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland

    L Sheward, Centre for Academic and Professional Development, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland

    K Smyth, Office of the Vice Principal (Academic), Edinburgh Napier University, Sighthill Campus, Sighthill Court, Edinburgh, Scotland

    This paper focuses on the findings from a recent Scottish survey of research into higher education, which raised concerns about pedagogic research taking place underground and being undervalued (Bovill et al, forthcoming). A brief overview of the survey findings will be presented including: demographic information, common areas of research, research methodologies, funding, levels of researcher expertise and dissemination practices. This survey highlighted that currently research into higher education in Scotland is undervalued – a finding that is consistent with earlier studies such as that undertaken by Yorke (2000). In addition, academic staff from different disciplines are engaged in research into higher education but they are not always aware of each other’s work. Research dissemination and communication channels are often predominantly disciplinary (Becher & Trowler, 2001) or institutional rather than interdisciplinary, national and international. Academic staff also regularly face pressure to prioritise publishing within their main discipline over publishing pedagogic research. The report also highlighted that many Scottish higher education institutions are currently not in a position to have their research into higher education assessed in the forthcoming UK Research Excellence Framework exercise.

    The undervalued nature of higher education research in Scotland will be explored and participants will be encouraged to discuss these findings and how they compare to the status of pedagogic research in their own nations. Higher educational research is considered to be a young disciplinary area of study (Ashwin, 2006), and the levels of experience and desire for further training and development from those who responded to the Scottish survey will also be discussed. Participants will be encouraged to consider a range of possible approaches to raising the status of research into higher education in their own international contexts. This discussion will particularly emphasise Steirer and Antoniou’s (2004) argument that pedagogic research has the potential to contribute meaningfully to quality enhancement in the higher education sector.


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    • Bovill, C., Sheward, L. and Smyth, K (forthcoming) Underground and undervalued: a survey of Scottish pedagogic research in higher education.
    • Stierer, B. and Antoniou, M. (2004) Are there distinctive methodologies for pedagogic research in higher education? Teaching in Higher Education 9 (3) 275-285.
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