Benefits of research-led learning on the student experience and NSS scores

The results of the 2012 National Student Survey are due to be made public shortly and we will be able to see how BU compared to other institutions and the sector average. The NSS data is based on the opinions of final year undergraduates on a number of issues such as how the students rate the universities’ learning resources, quality of personal development support and how intellectually stimulating their courses are.

Traditionally Russell Group universities have had lower response rates but scored more highly (85% satisfaction rate compared to a sector average of 81%). Often these higher scores are attributed to these institutions having a culture of research-led learning where enquiry-based, independent learning in a world-class research environment is at the heart of the student experience. Students report finding research-led learning exciting, and they also help produce graduates who are highly sought-after by employers.

The University of Cambridge’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) enables students to work with academics on live research projects as fully participating members of the project team. UCL is increasing opportunities for undergraduate students to take an active part in research-led learning. There are a number of ways in which undergraduate students can be exposed to research including:

  • Learning about others’ research (research-informed learning)
  • Learning to do research (research skills and methods)
  • Learning in a research mode such as enquiry-based learning

There is a growing body of evidence showing that research-led learning offers significant benefits to the student experience and student development, including:

  • the motivation and development of students as a consequence of exposure to expert subject matter
  • promoting the value of enquiry and deep approaches to learning
  • helping to develop transferable skills through engagement in research tools and processes

Many universities are now taking steps to ensure that all students are taught by research-active academics throughout their studies. There are numerous benefits of being taught of research-active academics including:

  • academics are at the cutting-edge of their field
  • they teach more relevant and up-to-date material
  • they gain enthusiasm for their subject from being research-active
  • they teach from their immediate research experience
  • they offer students a unique experience

Rather than seeing teaching and research as separate activities there are huge benefits to students of combining the two to ensure that teaching and learning are research-led and research-informed. Research-led learning lies at the heart of BU’s concept of Fusion which underpins the BU2018 strategy. If you are already research-active then be creative with your teaching! Encourage students to be involved in your live research projects and use examples from your research findings and experience in your lessons and teaching materials. If you’d like to be research-active then consider joining the University’s Grants Academy which will enable you to develop the skills and knowledge required to embark on a research career.

For more ideas and examples on research-led learning see this report – Research-led learning: the heart of the Russell Group university experience

One Response to “Benefits of research-led learning on the student experience and NSS scores”

  1. Richard s

    Interesting stuff Julie but you write as if we have no good, even great, examples of bu getting students to work on live research projects….one example close to home in cmc group in media school – our student conference where students present their own reserch paper to end their academic work with us. I know there are loads more examples and the Fusion funded activities will be adding to this pot. Any value in collating all such examples?