Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Go Further, Faster

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Go Further, Faster

Article excerpt

A drive to make FE colleges more research active must take in students, say Mick Healey, Alan Jenkins and John Lea

As more and more higher education is delivered by colleges of further education, there has been a push to enhance the research abilities of college staff.

That drive is laudable. Current estimates indicate that around one in 10 UK students are studying higher education outside a designated university. In the US, nearly half the country's undergraduates are believed to be studying in community colleges. And from von Humboldt and Cardinal Newman to the present day, one of the defining features of teaching in higher education has been its connection with research, a relationship that is multifaceted.

Efforts to make further education colleges more research active should not focus exclusively on the tutors. In a recent opinion piece in Times Higher Education ("Let them join you in the lab", 29 May), Stuart Hampton-Reeves argued that undergraduate research in the UK should be given a higher profile on the grounds that it enhances the student experience and better equips graduates with work-relevant attributes such as self-motivation and critical thinking. This argument applies just as strongly to college-based higher education as it does to the mainstream higher education sector.

In the course of researching a recent report on college-based higher education for the Higher Education Academy, Developing Research-Based Curricula in College-Based Higher Education, we became convinced that it is crucial to support college staff to teach in ways that would develop student abilities to learn through research and enquiry. We found lots of exciting examples of staff and students working together in scholarly ways that were both realistic for staff and aspirational for students.

These include a project for students on the foundation degree in sports studies at West Herts College to research the need for a local sports development initiative; a first-year poster presentation conference for students in Newcastle College's department of science and engineering; and a research project for students in the applied degree in culinary operations at Holland College, Prince Edward Island, on the food service industry in collaboration with the Culinary Institute of Canada.

Many such research-based activities were tailored specifically to students in the college-based higher education sector, who typically have a strong focus on using their degree to support future employability. …

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