Research-led education is a term that you will almost certainly have come across before or during your time at university. But what does it mean and how does it benefit your education?
To understand this, I begin with a brief explanation about the kind of university Essex is and the type of academics that make up our community. The University of Essex is a ‘dual-intensive’ university. This means we place equal importance on delivering excellence in education and excellence in research. As such, when we recruit teachers, lecturers, and professors, we seek those who have outstanding teaching skills but who are also either accomplished researchers or practitioners in their academic field. Thus, education and research are connected at Essex through the community of lecturers and professors that teach you.
You may be wondering why we expect the people who teach you to also be good researchers or practitioners. One reason is that, whether you are a lecturer or a student, you share something of great importance in common which is that you are both learners. Researchers are advanced learners who adopt very similar approaches to those that you will need as a student. For example, you’re expected to develop skills in finding and reading reliable sources of literature about your subject which is exactly what researchers do to understand the knowledge gaps in their academic fields. You are sometimes asked to submit written assessments as part of your course which is also very similar to the process of preparing and submitting articles for publication that your lecturers do. While you experience the highs and lows of getting good and, sometimes, not-so-good marks, your lecturers also experience similar swings in feeling when their written work either gets accepted or rejected for publication, usually after being evaluated by other experts in their field. So, you have a lot in common with your lecturer.
The important point is that, as part of your research-led education at Essex, you will be taught by a range of academics who, through years of learning experience, will have developed their own preferred approach to learning. In being taught by many lecturers at Essex, we hope that you will begin to notice how they differ in their own learning methods and that, through your own experience and reflection, this will help you develop and refine your own style in ways that see you leave us as a highly effective, life-long learner. Thus, learning to learn is a great benefit of your research-led education at Essex.
At some point, you may find yourself listening to a lecturer discussing a very specialised and nuanced aspect of their research, and you could be forgiven for wondering how this is relevant to your own education. Or could you? You see, to make new discoveries and draw credible conclusions, researchers often need to overcome theoretical inconsistencies and pragmatic difficulties. By telling stories about their research, your lecturers are actually sharing valuable insights and experiences with you about how to overcome difficult or confusing problems with thoroughness and rigour. This kind of insight is a major advantage of the kind of research-led education you receive at Essex compared to research-informed education. It will help you to develop the kind of advanced cognitive and enquiry skills that will help distinguish you as a graduate when you leave university, especially to prospective employers.
Research-led teaching is a fundamental part of what we refer to as a transformational education at Essex. During your time at Essex, you will be taught by research-active academics, learn about our research, and will have an opportunity to be directly involved in contributing to our research, especially during your capstone project. These experiences have very important transformative benefits, providing you with a chance to see your lecturers not just as your teachers but also as learners just like you. This will not only help refine your own learning skills but it will also enable you to develop intellectually rigorous discovery skills that will be of great benefit to you whatever you go on to do after university, especially in the world of work.