Low-quality teaching detrimental to 'brand UK'

Failure to protect teaching quality at low-cost higher education providers could threaten the health of the entire university sector, the former president of Universities UK has warned.

March 29, 2012

Speaking at the European University Association's annual conference, held this year at the University of Warwick, Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, said that if a large gap in quality opened up between institutions charging £9,000 and those offering less expensive courses, it could threaten the UK academy's "brand". He told the meeting of European university leaders on 23 March: "How do you guarantee quality for the lower end of the market when it costs £9,000 to go to Oxford but only £4,500 for a further education college?

"As soon as we damage the quality at the lower end, we damage the whole brand."

However, Professor Smith believed that the government's higher education reforms would force universities to attach greater importance to teaching: "Some academics speak sometimes as if it would be better if there were no students. We want [academics] to see teaching as something that is central to them."

He said the funding system that gave financial incentives for excellent research had led to the status of teaching being diminished.

"[We] should be embarrassed as we have set up the system as it is," Professor Smith said. "We all appoint people on the quality of research...But it is like soccer - you pay people who will get you promoted."

Hannu Seristo, vice-president of Aalto University in Finland, where higher education is free for undergraduates, said tuition fees were vital in promoting teaching quality.

Finland is running a pilot scheme in which universities can charge €8,000 (£6,686) a year to non-European Union master's students.

"I teach an MBA programme," he said. "If I know the people that I am teaching have paid [a combined total of] €2 million, it makes me worry about my teaching."

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

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 3 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
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy