The spirit of research

Bruce J Macfarlane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The reinvention of the university as a research-focused institution has transformed the way in which research is defined in practice. It is now widely explained in terms of a narrow set of performative expectations. This paper draws on historical literature to trace the hollowing out of research from a broad, though often sceptical, conception shaped by the liberal education tradition to one that is now expressed and evaluated almost exclusively in terms of pub- lication, grant getting, and doctoral completions. In so doing it is argued that there is a need to challenge neo-liberal assumptions about the purposes of higher education and reclaim what Truscot referred to as the ‘spirit of research’. This is essential both for authentic higher education teaching and as a set of scholarly, epistemic virtues. Such a conception, compatible with both the liberal education and Humboldtian traditions of the university, values research awareness over research productivity and provides a more secure link between research and teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages15
JournalOxford Review of Education
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2021


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