Academic expertise: the good, the bad and the ugly
Scene setting “debate”
Professor Abhinay Muthoo, Warwick in London will open the session with a 5 minute defence of current practices in academia (the good). This will include the importance of academic freedom and academic rigour and the generation of new knowledge that is methodologically sound. He will talk about the danger of dumbing down research in a world where academics are coming under increasing pressure to deliver swift and simplistic results. Abhinay will also touch upon the way knowledge is transferred through university teaching and highlight the dangers of treating learning as a product that can be bought by students who are increasingly presented as consumers of higher education.
Siobhan Benita will respond with a 5 minute challenge to some of these arguments (the bad and the ugly!). She will talk about the benefits of wider collaboration both across academic disciplines and between academics and non-academics and she will argue that this will generate research that is still rigorous but also more timely, more insightful and more relevant. She will talk about the need for greater diversity in the Academy and how this could influence and improve knowledge generation and dissemination. She will propose that both what is taught in universities and how teaching is delivered will need to fundamentally change over the coming period to keep pace with students’ and employers’ changing expectations.
Delegates will be invited to consider the following questions:
Have academics failed to keep pace with the world around them with respect to the production and dissemination of impactful research and new knowledge. What are the barriers to change and how can they be addressed? Are there risks associated with reform – for example in the quality of research that will be undertaken?
Senior academics in the UK are predominantly male and Caucasian, a fact which might nurture the perception that academics are elitist intellectuals sat in ivory towers, removed from the everyday struggles that many people face. Is achieving greater diversity in senior academic roles important and if you think it is, explain why?
What changes would you introduce to the way degree courses are taught and why? What do you see as being the most influential factors in this area (e.g. pressure from employers, new technologies, fees and funding policies)? Is it wrong to see students as consumers or can this be a force for good in the sector?