London Student

University of London takes gold but LSE and SOAS relegated in new Teaching Excellence Framework

London universities have fared well in the first Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) rankings, released today.

Imperial College, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and other specialist schools received the highest awards, while Birkbeck, University College, Brunel University, Queen Mary University, Royal Holloway University and London Southbank gained silver.

However London School of Economics, School of African and Oriental Studies, Goldsmiths and the University of East London all received Bronze.

The TEF rankings are typically awarded gold, silver or bronze for teaching quality in higher education institutions.

They were first introduced in 2015, July by Jo Johnson whose ambition was to tackle grade inflation and simultaneously improve teaching quality within institutions through targeted core outcomes and even incentives to universities, such as a proposed increase in tuition fees for students above the £9000 pounds a year threshold.

However the proposed measure to remove a cap on tuition fees and link fees to TEF results was scrapped in (LINK).
The framework focuses on four major assessment criteria when judging higher education institutions- teaching quality, learning environment, and student outcomes and learning gain against which universities are weighed up against in accordance with NSS survey results for the year.

Campaign group NCAFC raised concerns that the TEF would lead to university management treating students like consumers.

In a statement, they said: “Two major metrics informing TEF are (1) employment rates & graduate earnings and (2) the National Student Survey

“(NSS) results, neither of which have any relation to “teaching excellence”. Graduate earnings have nothing to do with the quality of teaching a student received, but rather how much businesses value a certain skill. This means we could see mass closures of arts and humanities courses, subjects viewed as less “marketable”.

“The NSS has long been an ineffective tool for rating student satisfaction, but TEF exacerbates these consequences. Uni management will now be more incentivized to focus on gaming the NSS for positive feedback and pointing the blame at over worked staff members, rather than materially changing the conditions of students.”

In a statement issued by SOAS, who noted that there were key concerns regarding TEF, a spokesperson said: “Here are two key concerns which we have about TEF metrics.

“The first and most fundamental is that the TEF metrics are imperfect proxies for teaching quality and certainly do not capture the entirety of the student experience at SOAS.

“Second, three of the six core metrics are quite lagged and so they reflect our historical performance. So our retention rate, employment and highly skilled employment data will not reflect the changes we have made in last few years.”

Finally, SOAS also mentioned that the utmost would be done to improve the ‘student experience’ through deliverable action plans sent to SOAS’s individual departments, adopting the correct strategy for graduate career choices and improving assessment and feedback systems within the curriculum itself.

Similar concerns were raised by Queen Mary University London. Vice Principal for student experience, teaching and learning, Rebecca Lingwood, said: “Student satisfaction, retention rate and employment data have been used in the exercise as proxies for the assessment of teaching quality. We expect the methodology to be modified in future TEF exercises to increase the credibility of the TEF outcomes.”

LSE was quick to highlight TEF’s constraints as part of its response to the rankings, calling upon to the government to revise the TEF in the near future due to the school’s “exceptional graduate record in high skilled job markets” not being taken into account.

LSE is 35th in QS global university rankings, under Kings College (23rd), UCL(7th) and Imperial College (8th) whilst Queen Mary University is 127th, placements which are not mirrored in the TEF results.

Interim Director of the LSE, Professor Julia Black also put emphasis on the school’ student teaching and learning experience, saying: “LSE fully supports the drive for teaching excellence and we are pleased the TEF panel recognises the resources we have committed to improve our student experience, including devoting an additional £11million to education over three years.

“The TEF panel recognises that we have a curriculum taught by world-renowned experts providing choice and stretch for students and it is right to have done so. Rigorous academic standards and independent critical analysis are an essential part of undergraduate education at LSE”.

Imperial College London’s Provost, Professor James Stirling, said: “Excellence in education is at the very heart of our mission. Our teaching must be as innovative, agile, and world-leading as our research. That’s why our new Learning and Teaching Strategy, launched last week, introduces significant new investment in education. This will support new, innovative, evidence-based teaching and learning methods across the College, drawing on the great work that is already taking place.”

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Ateeq Khan