Staff and students see themselves as lifelong researchers. Every student engages in at least one major research project with clear social benefit. These are often collaborative and involve placements, in some cases abroad. Research themes arise from students’ interests or may be stimulated by one of the many speakers or debates on campus. These research projects stimulate passionate discussion on campus and students offer advice and support to their peers and take pride in producing valuable work. These are published and are a vital part of the college’s contribution to the community. Producing a worthwhile project is an important rite of passage.This sounds like a great vision for Higher Education, albeit one that sets the bar rather high. In fact, as careful readers (or anyone who followed the hyperlink) will have noticed, Playfair isn't writing about Higher Education at all - he's writing about sixth-form college.
This should be a wake-up call for those who regard 'research-led teaching' as something that is unique to Higher Education, since only universities are 'research institutions'. I've been thinking about this recently, because of a quote from a senior academic that I read in Lisa Lucas et. al.'s recent report on Research and Teaching for the Higher Education Academy:
You’d have to be a very, very special type of individual to be able to enthuse year upon year upon year about a subject in which you have no involvement ... other than teaching. How do you keep updated on it? How do you keep motivated on it unlessThis sounds good until you think about the teachers you had before university. None of the (extremely inspiring) history teachers that taught me in secondary school were researchers, but they were enthusiastic, erudite, and familiar with developments in the field. The line between 'research-active' and 'teaching-only' staff is a fuzzy one, and the same can be true of the line between 'research-active' and 'teaching-only' institutions. Playfair's article is a useful reminder that while we may focus on integrating research and teaching at a university level, we should not expect integrated research and teaching to be limited to universities.
you’re involved in pursuing knowledge frontiers yourself? (p. 54)