University of Suffolk awarded bronze and University of Essex wins gold in Teaching Excellence Framework rankings

University of Suffolk, Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT

University of Suffolk, Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Top universities across the country have criticised the first major assessment of higher education teaching standards after many leading institutions failed to achieve the highest award.

The University of Suffolk was awarded bronze and the University of Essex was awarded gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), introduced by the government to recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching.

The TEF was introduced by the last government in a bid to gain more evidence about teaching and learning in UK universities, with proposals to link quality to tuition fee increases.

Universities which choose to enter are assessed on a range of measures, including student satisfaction, drop-out rates and what students do after they graduate.

Overall, 295 universities, colleges and alternative education providers took part, with 26% (59 institutions) gaining a gold award, 50% (116) rated silver and 24% (56) achieving bronze.

A gold award means that a university is of the highest quality found in the UK, providing “consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students”, while the silver award was given for consistently exceeding “rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education” and bronze was given to those that meet these national requirements.

Professor Mohammad Dastbaz, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Suffolk, said: “The University of Suffolk has been awarded Bronze by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) panel, which is valid for three years.

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“The rankings show we sit amongst several high status Russell Group universities and established universities including The London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Liverpool, University of Southampton, University of Kingston, University of Plymouth, University of Salford, SOAS, University of Westminster and University of Cumbria.

“Whilst the HE sector welcomes the introduction of TEF there are significant reservations around the measures introduced. The sector agrees that these measures do not reflect the excellence in teaching, indeed the government responded to a large number of Lords amendments regarding its HE bill and acknowledged that the measures need to be reviewed and the ranking methodology also needs to be revised.”

More than half of Russell Group institutions - considered among the best in the country - that entered the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) did not score a gold rating.

The Russell Group said it does not believe the TEF measures “absolute quality” and that would-be students need clear guidance about what the results mean and how they should be used.

But Coventry University, a newer institution which scored a gold, said the TEF showed that universities cannot rely on their “historic reputation”.

University of Essex Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, said: “We are extremely proud to be rated Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

“We admit students on their potential, not just on their prior achievement, and our staff are absolutely committed to providing a transformational education experience for all our students.

“With our top 20 ranking in the Research Excellence Framework in 2014, today’s announcement highlights that the University of Essex is a leader in delivering excellence in education and research and is in a select group of universities that excel at both.”