The competent and rigorous research that we source from universities and that pertains to topics regarding our environment, economies, industries, and communities are always esteemed and valued. However, in matters closer to home, within the campus gates, is it possible that the ‘research mindset’ has become a trip wire that prevents meaningful and significant in-roads to address student and staff wellbeing?
Justifications for research are always virtuous and therefore difficult to argue. It is easy to defend the need for yet more research and difficult to not concede. Research findings shine a light of clarity on important issues that need to be addressed so that nothing is assumed. (Agreed) Quantitative research in particular provides a yardstick for change: otherwise, it is harder to assess the effect that any strategy then adopted has been successful and to what extent. (Agreed)
But the lack of anything other than iterative change that appears to follow from research findings does raise the question of whether research has become the academic equivalent of the rocking chair. It soothes by suggesting that something is being done, yet what research can we cite that has led to a meaningful and measurable improvement? LifeRoute reads findings and guidelines that appear to specifically address recognised current-day challenges concerning mental wellbeing in higher education only then to discover in dismay that they were written at least 15 years earlier, if not last century.
If adequate strategies cannot be developed by those who work within the sector, what is the disposition to go outwith? Is there the feeling that only those who work in higher education can be in a position to offer relevant and workable solutions? Apart from temporary or part-time jobs, many academics have never worked outside the education sector. After graduation, they continued in a research/ fellow/ lecturing capacity within campus gates. Many haven’t even been formally trained in the pedagogies of learning and delivery. It has been deemed that subject specialism is sufficient, irrespective of ability to ‘put it across’. One cannot help but wonder if there are similarities to the goldfish who has only ever lived in the goldfish bowl. It is true, that one has to live in the goldfish bowl to really know what it is like – but life outside the goldfish bowl is able to observe both the fish and the bowl in a completely different and broader context – one where there can be a likelihood of finding new thinking for old, stubborn problems. On the outside one can also more readily see the hungry cat approaching…
In the spirit of Compassion and in the name of Goodness – please don’t just continue to subscribe to or endorse even more research based on the findings of past research. Open up to the rest of us in the wider world who have different ideas, experiences, and perspectives beyond the goldfish bowl. We feel we can offer many interesting ideas and hopeful alternatives, and more importantly, we want to, for the Common Good.