Laurie Taylor column

September 16, 2005

" The University of East London... tops a new league table of teaching quality, compiled by UEL itself " - Times Higher, September 9

From : the Vice-Chancellor

Subject : League Tables

As you will know, the University of Poppleton has not traditionally occupied the highest positions in league tables concerned with teaching quality.

It now appears that this lack of success may be the result of a "statistical artefact". According to Mr David Wainwright from Estates and Gardens, if all the available evidence were taken into account then Poppleton would instantly leap up the league tables.

"Big Dave" (as he's known to his colleagues) bases his opinion on an examination of the audit reports prepared by the Quality Assurance Agency. Although these reports were specifically designed to prevent translation into numerical judgments, Dave reckons they contain important but previously overlooked evidence of teaching quality.

He shows, for example, that the Poppleton QAA teaching quality report contains five uses of the word "adequate" (a surplus of three over rival institutions) and four uses of the term "satisfactory" (a surplus of two).

And there is more. No other university is so regularly described as "competent" (plus 3) or "along the right lines" (plus five) or "middling" (plus nine).

Overall, Dave calculates that Poppleton's audit report contains a surplus of at least seven positive evaluation terms over all other UK universities.

But the clincher lies elsewhere. Dave further discovered that the last paragraph of the audit report on Poppleton contained just three sentences. The first of these begins with a "T" ("The conclusions etc") the second with an "O" ("On the one hand etc") and the third with a "P" ("Paradoxically, the more one").

In Dave's own words: "What could be clearer. T-O-P. TOP. The QAA could hardly be any clearer if it spelt it out."

When all these considerations are taken into account, Poppleton readily overtakes Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, York and Essex and emerges as the top university in the country for teaching quality.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

The Vice-Chancellor (signed in his absence by Mrs Dilworth)

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