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The Bond Between Research and Education

The way ahead is born in the bonds between research and education.

Professor Christine Ennew OBE, Provost, Warwick

There is a long history, going back centuries, that universities should act as an intersection between research and education. The Humboldtian model of higher education – pioneered in Germany in the early 19th century – promoted academic education as a holistic combination of research and study. This model persists through to the modern day.

Surprisingly, perhaps, given our current approach, the UK was slower to adopt these principles. Some of the greatest British scientists of their generation, people such as Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus or Michael Faraday, were typically independent researchers – unattached to an educational institution and operating as lone pioneers advancing knowledge in their chosen area of research.

In more recent times the UK has led the world in research-led teaching and the University of Warwick is no exception. We see the two processes as fundamentally interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Both are about understanding and advancing knowledge, with better outcomes for all.

The benefit to the learner is perhaps most obvious. It is inspiring to surround yourself with those driving forward their disciplines; it’s exhilarating being exposed to those who are making a real difference in the world. The learner benefits from working with such role models, being challenged, and having access to – and even the ability to shape – the latest thinking before it becomes published work.

This is not a privilege that should only belong to experienced researchers, it should be open to all those who want to develop their knowledge and strive to find solutions to our collective challenges.

The benefits to the researcher are more complex, but no less impactful. Most importantly perhaps is the reassurance that you are inspiring and developing future generations who will take forward the work that you have been doing.

To make a real difference in the world we also must build the future. But don’t underestimate the value to the researcher of leveraging the ideas of those who are there to learn. Students can contribute by helping with the practicalities of doing research and by contributing to the ideas behind it.

By demonstrating the impact an individual can have on research outcomes at an early stage in their academic career, we can also encourage the best and brightest minds to develop their own careers. Progression through academia can often seem linear and hierarchical, but the reality is more complex, with opportunities to shape research processes and outcomes from the outset.

The University of Warwick is committed to a research-led approach as part of our Education Strategy. We support research-intensive approaches at all levels, including undergraduates. Perhaps the best example of this is our annual International Conference of Undergraduate Research. Now in its tenth year, this event brings together undergraduates from around the world to share and discuss the findings of the research they have conducted as part of their studies.

Universities are unique institutions which can bring together those delivering cutting-edge research and thinking, and those seeking to learn and develop their own approaches. We create an opportunity to co-create, to understand and advance knowledge for the benefit of all.

The University is a place where the learner can influence the outcome, and the teacher can develop new skills. It is a fluid and complex environment and it’s one that delivers a better impact than if researchers and students pursued their goals separately – better for the individual and better for the world.

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