University of Deusto (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 2524-2528
ISBN: 978-84-612-7578-6
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
It is generally accepted that universities should both teach and research. Moreover, instead of specializing its workforce as is common in other organizations, the university expects that each individual teacher will do teaching and research –in addition to various other activities such as management, continuous education, etc– In the late 80’s, 47% of Spanish researchers worked at universities, whereas 21% worked for the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), Spanish most important public research institution, and 32% worked for private and public companies. However, in 1991, only 41% of university teachers where involved in externally funded research projects [Sancho, 2001]. How come that almost 60% of higher education teachers do not have any significant research activity?

Some of the reasons can be found in an excellent little book written by Spanish Nobel Prize Santiago Ramón y Cajal, entitled Reglas y consejos sobre investigación biológica [Ramón y Cajal, 1913]. He argues that researchers are often too modest, and respect too much previous research work to seriously question it, and this detracts from the advancement of science. Another difficulty is the feeling of “everything worthwhile has already been discovered”. Ramón y Cajal says that although there are periods in the history of science in which most disciplines evolve very fast, there are always big or small problems to be solved. And more often than not, “small” discoveries can become very important later on: Miguel Servet wrote a few lines about the pulmonary circulatory system in a theology treatise, and those few lines are today considered his main contribution to science.

It seems possible to apply recent research results to postgraduate and specialized teaching. But how about graduate teaching? Is it important to be a good researcher in order to do good teaching at graduate level? There are opinions in favour of this view, and also against, arguing that the more time you spend researching, the less time you have left to prepare your classes and to be a good teacher. The fact is that none of these views are backed by empirical data, and apparently research and teaching at university level neither disturb nor help each other: they are not an example of parasitosis or symbiosis. Extant research shows very little positive correlation between research and teaching results at university level, so, one can conclude that both variables are in fact independent [Feldman, 87].


[Feldman, 1987] Feldman K.A. Research Productivity and Scholarly Accomplishment of College Teachers as related to their Instructional Effectiveness: A Review and Exploration. Research in Higher Education, Vol. 26, No. 3, 1987.

[Ramón y Cajal, 1913] Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Reglas y consejos sobre investigación biológica. Imprenta y librería de Nicolás Moya, 3ª Edición, 1913.

[Sancho, 2001] Sancho J.M. Docencia e investigación en la universidad: una profesión, dos mundos. Educar, 28, pp. 41-60, 2001.
university research, research and teaching in higher education, research and teaching relationship.