It was only a couple of weeks ago that a UK university had to remove the claim is was in the “top 1%” in the world.
Now, the Teaching Excellence Framework results, published this week, reveals that many top UK universities have missed out on winning the highest award — a gold rating.
The results are based on an assessment of teaching quality at universities — 134 higher education institutions, plus three alternatives with a university title.
43 universities received a gold rating (32%), with 67 receiving silver (50%), and 25 getting the lowest rating, bronze (18%).
There has been a bit of upset about the awards certain universities have been given. While the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and six other Russell Group universities got stamped with gold, 10 were given silver ratings, and 3 bronze.
One of the Russell Group universities in the bronze category is the London School of Economics, which is currently ranked at number 35 in the QS World University Rankings, and second in the world for social sciences.
According to The Guardian, LSE’s interim director Professor Julia Black said the university would be working with the government to “review and revise” the TEF assessment process.
“We are proud of the school’s exceptional graduate record, as evidenced by our students’ high attainment and outstanding performance in highly skilled job markets, which unfortunately are not captured by the Tef metrics,” she said.
The universities of Liverpool and Southampton also received bronze ratings, being beaten by non-Russell Group universities like Bangor and Coventry.
Many universities often considered to be less prestigious also received gold ratings, such as Liverpool Hope, De Montfort, and Nottingham Trent.
Dominic Shellard, vice-chancellor of De Montfort University, said the results were a “massive game changer,” adding that a “new hierarchies of universities” would be created as a result.
“[It] will have a huge impact on admissions and on international recruitment,” he said. “If you look at what the TEF measures, it’s exactly the kind of things that provoke questions from students and parents on open days — for instance, how will you support students to gain a rewarding job? So applicants will be interested in its results.”
Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said in a statement that the results show that there are “pockets of excellence that have been ignored” which can encourage improvements elsewhere.
“The fact that some of the results seem surprising suggests it is working,” he said. “I visit around 50 universities a year so know the Gold ratings have been hard won by committed staff and students and are very well deserved.”
However, he added that the TEF results are far from being an absolute assessment of teaching and learning.
“While it tells us a lot of useful things, none of them accurately reflects precisely what goes on in lecture halls,” he said. “I hope university applicants will use the results in their decision making but they should do so with caution, not least because the ratings are for whole universities rather than individual courses.”
The TEF was introduced by the government and applies to courses starting in September 2017. The idea was to provide an alternative picture of what it’s like to go to universities, so students could make better decisions about where they want to go, rather than simply looking at world rankings.
According to UCAS, universities and colleges with a high TEF award will be able to increase fees for full-time courses, in line with inflation.
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