Dissension within the rankings

March 22, 2018

All league tables are entertaining, although most are considerably more entertaining than enlightening. The attempt by Mark Smith and Nicola Owen to develop a combined teaching excellence framework and research excellence framework league table and produce a “new elite TREF” list is not supported by the way that the TEF panel, which I chaired, worked (“‘New elite’ emerges as new UK ranking combines TEF and REF”, News, 15 March).

I agree with Smith and Owen that the data underpinning the TEF and the REF are more robust than much league table input data, which measures institutional brand and spend as much as anything else, but we did not rank universities and colleges. We made judgements, based on the metrics and institutional submissions, about the award of gold, silver and bronze ratings. There were, as I have said on numerous occasions, “several routes to gold”. It is not, therefore, possible to argue that any institution came “first” in the TEF, nor to devise a sequential TEF ranking.

Chris Husbands
Vice-chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University, and chair of the TEF

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