Students to stay in dark on teaching qualification data

U-turn on move to publish breakdown of figures by institution after weak data from Hesa exercise

February 27, 2014

Source: Alamy

Poor return: Hesa received data on only 49 per cent of teaching staff

Plans to publish information on how many academics hold teaching qualifications at each university will not go ahead this year, after some institutions failed to return enough data.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills threw its weight behind the plan when it emerged in August last year, as part of its drive to provide more information to prospective students when they are choosing courses.

Institutions were asked to return information on all their teaching staff to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which had planned to publish a breakdown of figures by institution for the first time this spring.

However, Hesa has now said that it will not publish the information as planned, owing to a “wide variability in coverage between institutions and a high level of unknown data across the sector”.

In total, it received information on only 49 per cent of staff on teaching or teaching and research contracts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of those, Hesa found that 62 per cent hold some type of teaching qualification recognised by the Higher Education Academy.

Those aged 31 to 45 were most likely to hold a teaching qualification, with 67 per cent doing so, compared with 40 per cent of staff aged 30 or under, it adds. However, Hesa admitted that these figures were unlikely to reflect accurately the true level of teaching qualifications in the sector, concluding that “this year’s data on teaching qualifications is neither robust nor representative of HE institutions or the HE sector as a whole”.

The poor quality of this year’s data, which relied on staff providing the information to their institutions, is likely to disappoint ministers.

They had indicated that the teaching qualification data could have been included in Key Information Sets, which are to be reviewed this year.

Some academics feared that the inclusion in KIS would increase the likelihood of universities pressurising their staff to gain the qualifications, effectively making them compulsory – an onerous requirement for staff mostly involved in research.

However, Bob Cryan, vice-chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, the only university to have 100 per cent of its teaching staff recognised as HEA fellows, said students should have the opportunity to compare institutions by staff teaching qualification levels.

“Students have the right to know who they are being taught by and what qualifications they have,” said Professor Cryan.

“We have asked the question ‘what gives you the right to teach students?’ and part of the answer to that is qualifications,” he added.

Professor Cryan continued: “Just because you have a PhD and have taught for a few years does not make you a good teacher.”

All levels of staff at Huddersfield had benefited from their work to become HEA fellows, which had translated into better teaching, improved academic performance by students and stronger employment rates post-graduation, he said.

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