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Undergraduate Research in Australia

Barriers to Implementation

Currently a number of barriers work against the inclusion of undergraduate students in research as it is currently defined in universities.

Some of these are structural. For example, committee and performance management structures that separate considerations of teaching and research, restrictive definitions of research as well as ideas about who is capable of doing it, and how research is evaluated (Colbeck 1998).

In addition, there are systemic and policy structures that work against the integration of undergraduates into research and inquiry which go beyond individual universities. Key aspects are the attitudes and objectives of research funding bodies. In contrast to the US where undergraduate research is an accepted part of the national research effort, there is a need for national debates about the role of undergraduate research in the Australian research funding system.

Other barriers include hierarchical organisational structures and values conflicts that define undergraduate students as 'other', ways in which power operates to preserve research for the elite, including the higher year students and postgraduates; as if it were a kind of reward for hard work and thus excluding most undergraduates.

If students are to engage in learning through research and inquiry, there is a need to explore and discuss within university departments, attitudes that support and sustain particular views of research and teaching and views of students and what they are capable of. Fundamental to these issues are the ways academics and students relate to each other.

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