Call for extra 2500 teachers for higher education

THE growing emphasis on research at Australia's universities has sparked a call for an extra 2500 teaching jobs to help educate our younger generations.

A research paper by the Grattan Institute has argued for the new "teaching-focussed" position as part of a national effort to raise the quality of higher education.

It argues that as university enrolments grow to an estimated 40% of young people, more attention needs to be paid to "how students learn".

Institute higher education program director Andrew Norton said when about a quarter of enrolled students with low entry scores never complete their degree "the time, talent and money of a large group of people is going to waste".

He argues recent student surveys have suggested Australian students rate the quality of university teaching as lower than their American counterparts.

Mr Norton said one problem was that Australia's academic culture was narrowly focussed on excellence in research.

"Australian academics are usually appointed for their subject expertise not their teaching skills, and many of them prefer research to teaching," he said.

The institute's research found the view that better research led to better teaching was "not borne out by the evidence".

Students in high-research environments were no more likely to report satisfaction with teaching than students in low-research environments.

To address the situation, the institute argues for a cost-neutral program to create 2500 new jobs over six years to double the number of teachers in Australian universities.

All universities would compete for the jobs, with only 12 given the funding, to create a critical mass of teachers in select institutions.

"The aim is to create a circuit-breaker to the institutional culture of focusing on research," he said.

"If these positions are successful, they would begin to spread a culture of top-quality teaching right across our higher education system."