UK Higher Education

Universities in England to be ranked gold, silver or bronze

In a new proposal from the UK government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) English universities will be ranked gold, silver or bronze depending on their teaching quality. Here’s what we know so far.


What are the rankings?

These medal-like rankings could be introduced by the middle of 2017, creating a new form of league table for students who want to start university next September. The rankings will be broken down into:
“Outstanding levels of stretch that ensures all students are significantly challenged to achieve their full potential”.

“High levels of stretch that ensures all students are significantly challenged”

“Provision is of satisfactory quality … however, the provider is likely to be significantly below benchmark in one or more areas.”

Universities will be assessed on statistics including dropout rates, student satisfaction and graduate employment rates, which will take into account the number of students going into high-skill roles. Their final ranking will then last for up to three years before they’re assessed again.

Administered by the Department of Education, the universities minister Jo Johnson, said: “The framework will give students clear, understandable information about where the best teaching is on offer and for the first time place teaching quality on a par with research at our universities.”

Although this is currently only being implemented for universities in England, The Department of Education has announced that universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can opt in to receive these new rankings. However, they can’t raise their fees as a result of their award, something English universities will be able to do.


What will it mean for fees?

Universities will have to wait until 2018 to raise their fees (at the rate of inflation) based on their new rankings. After this first stage is done, all awarded universities will be able to raise fees again in 2019.  Even if an institution has been awarded bronze, they’ll still be allowed to raise fees.


What are people saying?

“The idea of a gold, silver and bronze awards for teaching will undoubtedly raise eyebrows in universities, particularly with the link to fees,” said Aaron Porter, Director of Insights at Hotcourses.

“We still wait to see whether TEF itself will actually do anything to raise the standard of teaching, or is simply a smokescreen to allow universities to charge higher fees through the back door.

“Question marks will also be raised whether it’s legitimate to award a university a ‘bronze’ for teaching, while simultaneously describing the provision as ‘significantly below benchmark in some areas.’ If you win an Olympic bronze you are the third best in the world, if you secure a TEF bronze you are ‘significantly below benchmark.’”

These new rankings certainly do pose some interesting questions. Will they lead to a better learning experience or are they an unnecessary categorisation? How will this affect the Russell Group universities? Will the gold ranking end up replacing them? Only time will tell, but we’ll keep you posted on the latest developments.

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