Can current trends to develop teaching-only academic positions be reconciled with the notion of the interrelationship of teaching and research as a defining characteristic of universities? In particular, what does academics' engagement in research add to students' learning? A study of 200 undergraduates' perceptions of the role of staff research in their university education is presented to contribute towards answering these important questions. The data, which include a large number of qualitative responses, show that students believe that academics' engagement in research deepens student understanding, increases enthusiasm for learning and teaching, encourages postgraduate study, develops skills useful for employment and enhances undergraduate research activities. The article argues that academics' engagement with research is a key contributor to making higher education ‘higher’ and effectively increases the value of education to the student.