England is to have a new assessment of university teaching by rating institutions as “bronze”, “silver” and “gold”, as a part of the next stage of the teaching excellence framework (TEF). The government will table new leagues according to the teaching qualities of institutes.
Students can then choose to study at gold, silver or bronze universities. “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,” the university minister Jo Johnson said.
The new ratings will come into force from the middle of next year. Universities will be given a year’s grace period before they raise tuition fees based on the tuitions.
The rankings will be 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.
Assessment will be carried out by “experts in teaching and learning as well as student representatives, employer representatives and widening participation experts,” after a gap of one year. The rankings will then last for three years.
According to the Department of Education which has the responsibility for applying the framework, the Tef panel will award gold to a university if its courses offer “outstanding levels of stretch that ensures all students are significantly challenged to achieve their full potential”. Students will need to be “frequently engaged with developments from the forefront of research, scholarship or practice”.
Silver grades will be awarded to universities offering courses with “high levels of stretch that ensures all students are significantly challenged,” while bronze will go to universities where “provision is of satisfactory quality … however, the provider is likely to be significantly below benchmark in one or more areas.”
The ratings will determine funding as well as tuition fees. These will also include extra benchmarking of graduate employment data to ensure universities are “not penalised” for taking on poorer students.
Vice-chancellors, are probably relieved at the one year grace period as they were concerned that the new fees framework would come into force while they were still struggling with the impact of Brexit on student recruitment.
Julia Goodfellow, president of the lobby group Universities UK and vice-chancellor of Kent University, said: “The revised timetable is helpful and we are pleased there will be evaluation and piloting before moving to the next phases of the Tef.
“The challenge for government, and the university sector, will be to develop a single framework that can respond effectively to the tremendous diversity within our higher education system, throughout the UK.”
Maddalaine Ansell, chief executive of the University Alliance mission group, said that “the merits of a highly skilled employment metric and a medals-style ratings system will need to be tested. The trial year will be vital to getting this right.”