The importance of research-informed teaching is often cited as one of the key factors underpinning UK excellence in biomedicine. However, this raises the question of how the teaching element influences the careers of academic staff.
In 2008, under the Chairmanship of Professor Keith Gull CBE FRS FMedSci, the Academy's Academic Careers Committee (Non-Clinical) conducted a review of the status of teaching within biomedical science departments and medical schools to assess the balance that teaching and research hold, particularly in relation to career progression. The report launched on Friday 26 March 2010 and was covered on the New Scientist S Word blog.
In 2013, the Academy decided to follow up the implementation of the report's recommendations in conjunction with three partner organisations: The Physiological Society, Society of Biology and Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS) (a special interest group of the Society of Biology). These organisations formed a joint steering group, chaired by Professor Gull and with representation from the Higher Education Academy, to undertake the follow-up. The summary of this project was published on Monday 30 June 2014.
Professor Keith Gull CBE FRS FMedSci Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Molecular Microbiology, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology and Principal of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford (Chair)
Professor Robert Burgoyne FMedSci Head of School, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Liverpool
Professor Richard Denton FRS FMedSci Professor of Biochemistry and Former Dean of Medical and Veterinary Science, Department of Biochemistry, University of Bristol
Dr Anne Donaldson Reader, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen
Professor Darrell Evans Associate Dean, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton
Professor Barry Furr OBE FMedSci Chief Scientist/Consultant, Global Discovery Division, Astra Zeneca PLC, Macclesfield
Professor Mary Ritter Pro Rector for Postgraduate and International Affairs, Imperial College London
Dr Stephen Taylor Reader, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester
Professor Jonathan Cohen FMedSci Dean, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Universities of Brighton and Sussex, Brighton (Co-opted member of the Academy of Medical Sciences Academic Careers Committee (Clinical))
Professor Patrick Sissons FMedSci Regius Professor of Physic, School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge (Chair, Academy of Medical Sciences Academic Careers Committee (Clinical))
Reviewers were invited to consider whether the report met its terms of reference and whether the evidence and arguments presented in the report were sound and supported the conclusions. Members participated in a personal capacity and not on behalf of their affiliated organisations.
Professor Ron Laskey FRS FMedSci Honorary Director of the MRC Cancer Cell Unit, University of Cambridge (Chair)
Professor John Aggleton FMedSci Professor of Cognitive Neurosciences, Cardiff University
Professor Frances Balkwill OBE FMedSci Professor of Cancer Biology and Centre Lead, Translational Oncology, Barts and The London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry
Professor Christopher Day FMedSci Pro-vice Chancellor, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University
The key objectives of follow-up were to:
Assess the extent to which the 2010 recommendations have been met and whether there is still an imbalance in the status and valuation of teaching in academic careers across the biosciences.
Determine which, if any, of the recommendations continue to be of key relevance in the current policy context, and how these can be addressed.
Raise awareness in order to share best practice, discuss barriers to progress, and catalyse activity to redress any identified imbalance across key stakeholders.
To meet these aims, a joint steering group undertook the following two activities:
A survey of over 250 individual academics across bioscience departments and medical schools in UK universities in the summer of 2013. The academics represented a wide range of university mission groups, clinical and non-clinical departments, careers stages and teaching loads. Results from the survey (available to download on this page) indicated that there is still much to do to raise the status of teaching.
A national workshop on 28 March 2014, which raised awareness of the 2010 report, its recommendations and the extent of their implementation in 2013; further promoted the importance of the issue to a range of HE stakeholders; disseminated case studies that highlight good practice; and discussed processes for evidencing and evaluating good teaching. The workshop was attended by approximately 80 guests: representatives from funders, national bodies and Learned Societies, as well as those from across the HE sector - including Vice Chancellors, Pro Vice Chancellors of Education, Deans of Faculty, Heads of Bioscience and academics of all career stages. The workshop agenda, case study slides and discussion summary are avilable to download on this page.
There is much to be optimistic about since 2010: examples of good practice have been emerging over the last three years, and there is now a broad and enthusiastic cohort interested in seeing the recommendations implemented.
However, there is still much to do to implement the 2010 recommendations. Funding is a relevant issue, but there is also an urgent need for a change in culture and to develop a widely established framework for identifying and measuring good teaching, as there is for research. The project summary is available for download on this page and details how there is a need to:
Identify, develop, raise awareness of, disseminate and iterate best practice within the sector;
Develop new, and build on existing, opportunities that individual academics could use as evidence of good teaching;
Develop clear guidelines on evidencing and evaluating good teaching that capture both activity and impact; and
Encourage individual academics to proactively record evidence of their own achievements and to provide feedback on the activities and impact of their peers.
Professor Keith Gull CBE, FRS, FMedSci Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Molecular Microbiology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford (Chair)
Professor Judy Harris Professorial Teaching Fellow in Medical Sciences Education, University of Bristol and Deputy Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee, The Physiological Society
Professor Ron Laskey CBE FRS FMedSci FLSW Emeritus Professor of Animal Embryology, University of Cambridge
Professor Ottoline Leyser CBE FRS Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge
Dr Hilary MacQueen Head of Department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences, The Open University and Chair of the Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS) Executive Committee, a Special Interest Group of the Society of Biology
Dr Jeremy Pritchard Head of Education, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham and Chair of the Education, Training and Policy Committee, Society of Biology
Professor Anne Ridley FMedSci Professor of Cell Biology, King's College London and co-Chair of the Academic Careers Committee, Academy of Medical Sciences
Dr Janet de Wilde Head of STEM, Higher Education Academy
Dr Simon Wilkinson CRUK Career Development Fellow, Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre, University of Edinburgh
Professor David Wynford-Thomas FMedSci FLSW Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Head of the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology; Dean of the School of Medicine, University of Leicester; member of the Medical Schools Council
Dr Richard Malham Senior Policy Officer, the Academy of Medical Sciences
Gemma Garrett Head of Education, Society of Biology
Zoe Martin Education Policy Officer, Society of Biology
Dr Christabel Stokes Head of Education, Outreach and Policy, The Physiological Society