Innovation and education must be balanced
The University of South Florida is “Florida’s leading metropolitan research university,” according to its mission statement.
According to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, during the fiscal year of 2009, science and engineering funding reached $54.9 billion dollars. The USF system alone was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in the fiscal year of 2008-2009.
With such a strong emphasis on presenting new knowledge, it is no wonder that universities focus heavily on research. Nonetheless, universities at their very core are based on educating students – a goal that shouldn’t be hindered by overvaluing research.
Most tenured professors are expected to spend a significant amount of time carrying out research to expand the university’s research output. Time spent in research detracts from time spent teaching, including preparing for class. Renowned professors at universities might be less likely to opt for using teaching assistants to teach their students.
This idea – that teaching suffers because universities value research above education – was voiced in 2008 in Science magazine by Diane O’Dowd of the University of California at Irvine and Richard Losick of Harvard University.
According to an article by the authors of “The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out,” often money spent on research “adds little to the quality of student earning while raising its effective cost.” Many courses are designed in a manner that gears students toward postgraduate and professional schools, which hinders students’ capacity to adapt to the workplace environment upon graduation.
Of course, it cannot be said that research is insignificant or unessential. Students get practical and essential hands-on experience from working with research professors. Many research findings bring innovation and unprecedented insight into science particularly, as with the recent @Tavros02, the USF underwater robot that analyzes its findings and tweets about them.
Such projects shape several areas of study, especially the STEM fields. Nonetheless, professors in many universities are often judged based on the amount of research dollars they bring in rather than the quality of their work, according to an article in Capitalism Magazine by Thomas Sowell.
It is crucial for research universities to achieve a balance between research and education. Though research is significant in furthering the STEM field and serves as a strong driving force, the future of the country and the world lies with the younger, college-aged generation which deserves the education for which it is paying.