Opinions - 18.05.2015 - 00:00 

Research’s little brother

On 11 May, HSG sponsored “Teaching Day”. The discussion topic was innovations in teaching. Shin Szedlak, Student Union President, observed the event and offers his thoughts on the topic.


15 May 2015. Broadly speaking, the task that Canton of St.Gallen, and thus the general public, confer to HSG can be divided into two areas. First, it is the added value in science generated through research. HSG does an excellent job of fulfilling this task, as rankings in Handelsblatt and Financial Times show.

Second, every university has the educational mandate to train students to be reflective and capable of critical thinking. This is a big responsibility, especially for HSG, as one of the most prestigious business schools in Europe. In the future, some graduates will hold positions that are linked with great freedom of action and thus with far-reaching decisions. For a public university such as HSG, this means not only the aspiration but also the obligation to educate conscientious people who will later be able to make reflective and self-critical decisions.

Outstanding research does not automatically mean excellent teaching

Even though one always speaks about teaching that is close to research, a definite conflict is visible between the two areas. In all of continental Europe, an incentive scheme that clearly favors research prevails. University lecturers distinguish themselves through publications, the number of citations and new findings in science. They are hired at a university due to those factors, primarily. The natural consequence is that this extrinsic motivation clearly favors research in a lecturers’ time allocation. Unfortunately, outstanding principles of teaching, excellent methods and reflective students in a course have little influence on the teachers’ career management.

So if research is supported by extrinsic factors as well as intrinsic motivation, and teaching can only draw upon the latter, there is a distinct imbalance of individual prioritization. Thus, the ultimate consequence is that many lecturers see teaching as a troublesome side business to their research activity and students benefit rather little from outstanding results in rankings.

Where do we want to go?

A new incentive system is necessary to lift teaching from the shadow of research. This problem, which concerns many universities, cannot be solved from one day to the next.

However, a lot can be done at HSG. Namely, more value can be placed on teaching when choosing new lecturers, and the appreciation of outstanding courses can be enhanced. The student union does this with the Teaching Award, which is given annually on Dies Academicus. Now, the School of Economics and Social Sciences (SEPS) also presents an internal award. But principally, the sensitization of all involved parties is important if the problem is to be addressed openly.

A lot has happened at the university during this academic year – the new project “Innovation Teaching”, the “StudierBar” and “Teaching Day”. If one looked around a little on that day, it became obvious that there are a large number of lecturers who do incredibly valuable work. They finally had a proper platform to present their ideas – an important step in the right direction.

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