The University of St Andrews has received a “Gold” award in the controversial new ranking system, the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).
The TEF was introduced by the UK Government in 2016 with the aim of giving students a clearer picture of teaching quality and learning outcomes at different universities. Participating institutions are awarded a gold, silver or bronze rating for their performance. This is the first year the Framework has rated performance.
“This excellent result tells existing and prospective students from Scotland, the UK, and across the world that in coming to St Andrews they can be confident of an experience of the highest quality.”
St Andrews Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone, said: “This excellent result tells existing and prospective students from Scotland, the UK, and across the world that in coming to St Andrews they can be confident of an experience of the highest quality. It also confirms why we are riding so high in league tables.”
The rankings are awarded by a panel of 27 assessors and are based on statistics including dropout rates, student satisfaction survey results and graduate employment rates – including the proportion of graduates who go on to work in high-skill jobs.
Critics have argued that these are not good indicators of teaching quality.
Indeed, several prestigious institutions, including many in the Russell Group of universities, missed out on the gold award, including the London School of Economics, which only achieved a bronze ranking.
The acting director of the Russell Group, Dr Tim Bradshaw, said: “Our members provide an outstanding student experience where teaching is enhanced by access to world-class research and facilities.
“This is a trial year. We need to recognise that developing a robust Tef that is truly reflective of the UK’s excellent higher education sector will take time.”
The new framework has also come under fire for the government’s attempts to link the level of tuition fees a University could charge to the award it received.
Initially, it was planned that the universities with high rankings would be allowed to increase the tuition fees they charge above £9,000 a year, in line with inflation. However, following criticism from activists – including a campaign by the National Union of Students (NUS) for students to boycott the National Student Survey because of its links to TEF – these plans were postponed by the government.
The new framework has also come under fire for the government’s attempts to link the level of tuition fees a University could charge to the award it received
An independent review of this aspect of the TEF will begin in 2018 – with the aim of annual increases becoming dependent on teaching quality from 2020-21.
This would mean that universities with a gold award, such as St Andrews, may be able to raise their tuition fees further than those without a high ranking.
Commenting further on St Andrews’ award, Proctor and Vice-Principal for Learning and Teaching, Professor Lorna Milne, said: “Wherever they come from, by the time our graduates leave St Andrews they are skilled, questioning, responsible, mature and, as such, an asset to society. We often see them as our main reward for the hard work we put into their education – but it is also gratifying to receive recognition through a national award!”
Charlotte Andrew, President of the St Andrews Students’ Association, said: “St Andrews students have long recognised the exceptional quality of teaching at our University. I hope that this well-deserved Gold award incentivises additional prospective students from around the world to consider applying to our wonderful institution.”
TEF panelists found that “students from all backgrounds achieve consistently outstanding outcomes” in St Andrews and that there were “outstanding levels of satisfaction with teaching, assessment and feedback, and academic support.”
“Very high proportions from across the entire student population progress to highly skilled employment or further study,” said the judges.
The other universities in Scotland to receive a gold award were Dundee and Robert Gordon University.