Janet Beer: ministers should not publicly criticise university teaching

University of Liverpool vice-chancellor says remarks harm UK’s global reputation

October 8, 2015
Janet Beer University of Liverpool

The UK is in danger of “shooting ourselves in both feet” when leaders criticise the quality of university teaching in public, a senior academic has claimed.

Janet Beer, vice-chancellor at the University of Liverpool, said universities need to pay “rigorous attention to the quality of what happens in our lecture halls” but it “does not do us any good reputationally when we beat ourselves up in public”.

Speaking at a conference on transnational education hosted by Universities UK and the UK Higher Education International Unit, Professor Beer said: “When our minister describes the quality of some of our lectures as ‘lamentable’, it is not a great moment for higher education.”

Last month universities minister Jo Johnson claimed in a speech at UUK’s annual conference that “lamentable teaching” is damaging the reputation of British higher education.

Professor Beer added: “There is some brilliant stuff going on at universities in this country, and indeed some very creative and inventive pedagogy in overseas contexts.

“The expectation of students is quite rightly growing. I’m not saying all teaching is good; by no means am I saying that.

“We need to pay very rigorous attention to the quality of what happens in our lecture halls, seminar rooms and tutorials, but it does not do us any good reputationally when we beat ourselves up in public, which we seem to do on a reasonably regular basis.”

Meanwhile, Troy Heffernan, professor of transnational education and international director of Plymouth Business School at Plymouth University, said that as the competition for transnational education increases, so too will the tension between profitability and quality.

“There is a real tension, I’m finding, between profitability of the operation and the quality of the operation. Quality is key,” he said.

He advised universities involved with transnational education to ensure they have a full understanding of the Quality Assurance Agency code in this area and “examine” potential international partners “at an early stage”.

“The DNA has to be right on both sides. Ask, is it of benefit to your university? Is it of benefit to their institution? And will students come? You must answer yes to all three.”


You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Reader's comments (1)

And in other news the British Tourist Authority has urged ministers not to refer to "saving for a rainy day" as it reinforces negative impressions of the UK's weather.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Researcher in Fluid Dynamics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu


Greenwich School Of Management Ltd

PhD Research Fellow in Medical Physics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Postdoctoral position in Atmospheric and Space Physics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD Fellow in Machine Learning

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes