The term ‘scholarship’ is used in a variety of ways in Higher Education.  For some, it embraces the broadest range of activities within the academy:

Boyer’s Model of Scholarship

Ernest Boyer’s seminal work, Scholarship Reconsidered (1990), challenged higher education institutions to embrace the broader scope of academic work, moving beyond the traditional tripartite faculty role of teaching, research, and service, and an overly narrow definition of research as the only legitimate avenue to further knowledge. He proposed four interrelated dimensions of scholarship:  discovery, integration, application and teaching. Subsequently, Boyer expanded his definition to include the scholarship of engagement, which regards service as scholarship when it requires the use of knowledge that results from one’s role as a faculty member.

  • The scholarship of discovery refers to the pursuit of inquiry and investigation in search of new knowledge.
  • The scholarship of integration consists of making connections across disciplines and advancing knowledge through synthesis.
  • The scholarship of application asks how knowledge can be applied to the social issues of the times in a dynamic process that generates and tests new theory and knowledge.
  • The scholarship of teaching includes not only transmitting knowledge, but also transforming and extending it.
  • The scholarship of engagement connects any of the above dimensions of scholarship to the understanding and solving of pressing social, civic, and ethical problems.’

Boyer, Ernest (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Menlo Park, CA, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: 147.

Boyer, Ernest (1996). ‘The Scholarship of Engagement’, Journal of Public Outreach, 1(1): 11-20.

For further explanation see, where Discovery is equated with Research through publishing, creative work and infrastructure.

But in current British higher education parlance, scholarship is often regarded in a more limited sense, its meaning varying according to context:

  1. as a form of academic activity distinct from research
  2. as a specific subset of research
  3. as a wider contribution to research infrastructure

Each of these different flavours of scholarship can be related to the context in which they are used.

(1) As a form of academic activity distinct from research 

The widespread distinction between ‘Teaching and Research’ and ‘Teaching and Scholarship’ contracts is apparent in three examples.

a. TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing) Guidance Annex 6  relates Scholarship to Professional Development:

Scholarship is activity that updates or maintains the knowledge of an individual; or adds to their skills and experience. The knowledge base already exists elsewhere.

Scholarship is therefore different from Research [: the] maintenance and advancement of own personal knowledge and skills (reading literature, attending professional conferences, maintaining professional or clinical skills, acquiring new skills etc.)

b. REF 2021 Decisions on Staff and Outputs  addresses contractual issues directly, distinguishing between  academic staff who have a significant responsibility for research, particularly in research-intensive universities [and] staff who have more significant responsibility for other activities, including knowledge exchange, professional practice, and scholarship.

Staff engaged exclusively in scholarship would not be considered to have a significant responsibility for research.

c. University promotion procedures typically require such scholarship to go beyond individual professional development, requiring evidence of dissemination and wider influence within or beyond the academy.

Thus for Leeds, teaching-related scholarship [is] defined as: the application of the most current knowledge of a discipline or professional specialism to broader activities and practice, communicated in ways which are validated by peers and influence others beyond the institution.

And for Nottingham: how the individual has engaged in teaching related scholarship; and dissemination of this either through participation in conferences, exhibitions, or through text books or other relevant outputs relating to the subject area.…/jobfamilies/rt…/level-5-teaching-learning.docx

And for The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama:

Scholarship is defined as the integration and application of knowledge in an area of disciplinary expertise, and/or its pedagogy.

(2)  As a specific subset of research

The REF 2014 Assessment framework and guidance on submissions  specify that Research includes Scholarship, given a particular definition:

Scholarship for the REF is defined as the creation, development and maintenance of the intellectual infrastructure of subjects and disciplines, in forms such as dictionaries, scholarly editions, catalogues and contributions to major research databases.   Annex C

By implication such works of scholarship were eligible to be submitted as research outputs.  However, research excludes the development of teaching materials that do not embody original research.

REF 2021 guidance on this issue is awaited.

(3)  As a wider contribution to research infrastructure

This characterisation describes activities that support the processes and infrastructure underlying research – including reviewing, membership of learned bodies and editorships. Thus Leeds University again:

Research-related scholarship refers to activities which support and enhance academic and/or research activities and might include:

  • Research reviews – important contributions to the knowledge and understanding within the discipline in many subject areas though they do not in themselves constitute original and significant research.
  • Contributions to the scholarly infrastructure of the discipline such as:
  • membership of learned societies with related activity;
  • elected officer of learned societies with related activity;
  • membership of editorial board of important journal in the field;
  • editor of important journal in the field.


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