From my experience (in Europe), I have often seen that professors give their research highest priority and see teaching only as a necessity that gets a low priority. I feel that this is due to the fact that having many strong publications has a direct benefit for the professor:

  • increased chance of getting called to a better university
  • better access to research grants and corporate funding
  • increased public visibility

Teaching, on the other hand, does not seem to have such direct benefit for the professor.

I am wondering if this is just a subjective feeling or if there exists any research that can support this?

Question: Are there any scientific publications that support my analysis? Does the current academic system favor research over teaching quality?

Update: Based on the comments and answers I see that my statement might not necessary hold in the general case. My experience is largely based on European universities where a professor is usually employed for life. Maybe there exists research specifically for European universities?

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    I don't know whether it's just your three bullet points. IMO, doing research is simply more interesting than teaching, especially introductory courses. Most people stay in academia because they love the thrill of doing research. Once you have taught the same introductory material ten times over the years, writing a new paper looks really good by comparison. – Stephan Kolassa Dec 2 '16 at 12:44
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    @StephanKolassa opinion is right. However, at my faculty, the publication record and quality of teaching don't come at equilibrium. There are very good teachers with a limited publication record, and also decent professors with limited teaching skills but with very strong papers in the field. – Nikey Mike Dec 2 '16 at 12:51
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    It's not only your impression, PhD Comics made this point very ... impressively: phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1111 And yep, in the end, it's publications and funding that keeps a department afloat, not satisfied students. And given this "publish or perish" pressure you could come to the conclusion that "one minute invested in teaching is a minute lost for research". Others love teaching and the lack of (high quality) publications breaks their necks. And few great ones do both very well, and unfortunately, some do both very badly. – Daniel Wessel Dec 2 '16 at 14:36
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    It's important to remember that only a small fraction of institutions are top research Universities. How professors are evaluated at an R1 is very different then how they are evaluated at places where everyone teaches at 3-4 classes every semester. – BrianH Dec 2 '16 at 19:13
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    People who enjoy teaching more than research will look for a job that emphasizes teaching. People who enjoy research more than teaching will look for a job that emphasizes research. Schools that value teaching more than research will reward teaching more than research. Schools that value research more than teaching will reward research more than teaching. – user1482 Dec 7 '16 at 6:25

I used to work in a university, one of the largest and most research intensive, where they recognised that academics had different drivers. They created three designations:

  • teaching-focused academics had targets based on teaching outputs
  • research-focused academics had targets based on research outputs
  • balanced academics had targets that were a mixture of both

Performance reviews and tenure decisions were tied to these targets.

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    At least in the European universities that I have seen the teaching focused positions are very rare, usually there exists only the "balanced academics" position and depending on the professor this can quickly turn into being research focused. I especially feel that few professors are willing to invest time to create high quality lecture notes and rather spend that time for publications and research. – lanoxx Dec 6 '16 at 13:41

The elephant in the room of your question is the issue of getting tenure.

My impression is that each institution has its own protocol for establishing tenure, with different weights for things like:

  • student evaluations

  • publications

  • number and quality of grad students

  • service to department

  • outreach

  • commitment to diversity

In the U.S. there is a clear divide between the "small liberal arts college" and the large university. The former tends to pride itself on its greater emphasis on high quality teaching and less emphasis on "publish or perish." I personally am not yet convinced that the teaching is necessarily consistently better at the "small liberal arts college."

  • Getting tenure is only important when you are starting to become a professor, or when you want to change your job. Once you have got tenure, what will prevent you from focusing more on research and less on teaching. I have seen professors who would not even show up in the lecture and send some of their PhD students, post docs or teaching assistants instead. – lanoxx Dec 18 '16 at 12:37
  • @Ianoxx - I proposed some small edits to your question, see what you think. Perhaps you'd like to edit it some more and clarify that you are asking about tenured professors. (At least, that's what I'm gleaning from the comments.) Also, it might be helpful to add a tag "Europe". (Unfortunately that would require removal of one of the other tags.) // I don't know the European scene very well. Is it at least somewhat heterogeneous? If so, you might want to mention which European countries you're familiar with. Also, sharing what you've found on google scholar so far would strengthen the Q. – aparente001 Dec 18 '16 at 17:11

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