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Why is university research important for students?

The research carried out by universities might seem disconnected from your educational experience. But, university research can have a huge impact on your life as a student, even if you don’t realise it!

Universities generally want to shout about their research. This is usually because they have a good reputation for it, or because they’re undertaking high-profile work. In fact, you’ll often see current and past research projects feature prominently on a university website’s homepage.

But for a long time, there has been a lot of misunderstanding about the role that research plays at educational institutions. Some people find it hard to see the contribution that research makes to students’ university education.

That’s why we’re sharing the reasons why university research is important for students.

1. It means teachers have up-to-date information

Firstly, teaching staff who take part in university research will be participating actively in their field. This means that they will gain valuable insight into their particular subject area.

In fact, being at the cutting edge of research in a particular subject can filter through to students. Though projects can sometimes take years, or even decades, to complete, the research is applicable in the classroom right away.

This is true for undergraduate students as well as postgraduate students. If you study a master’s degree then you may be more directly involved in important university research. But, undergraduate students also benefit from up-to-date knowledge, and being close to developments in their subject.

It’s hugely valuable to know that teaching staff won’t fall behind the times when it comes to knowing their subject and sector. Being involved in research helps ensure that lecturers are actually engaged in what they are teaching.

2. It turns professors into better teachers

Secondly, cutting-edge research can help keep your lecturers stimulated and challenged. It ensures that they themselves continue to learn. As researcher and professor Dr John Story wrote in a 2012 Huffington Post article, this can turn professors into better teachers because they can empathise with their students.

University research helps your teachers to be ‘lifelong learners’. This is the idea that, no matter how old you are, or how many qualifications you have, you can always learn more.

3. It encourages investment

There are also more tangible benefits. University research usually requires investment in state-of-the-art facilities. This means that research-intensive universities need better laboratories, bigger libraries and specialist equipment.

Universities need to ensure that they have the resources they need to carry out their research. So, governments and businesses often provide grants and funding for appropriate equipment. These facilities are in turn often made available to students and, as a result, their study experience is enhanced.

4. It informs textbooks and resources

Finally, university research has a valuable long-term impact on students. No matter which subject you study, your textbooks and resources are usually informed by research carried out by academics.

And, what’s more, even after you graduate, you’ll benefit from university research. You’ll use products, take medicine and learn from knowledge that’s all been made possible by research.

Pace university student holding a drone at the media studio
Student holding books at Nottingham Trent University library

How to learn about a university’s research

In the UK, one way to see how much emphasis a university places on research is by checking the Research Excellence Framework.

This shows the quality, quantity and influence of a university’s research. It might be something you want to take into account when choosing a study destination.

You can also check out university websites and learn about their past and current research projects. From climate change to mental health, universities are truly leading the way into the future with their research.

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