Laurie Taylor – 13 July 2017

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

July 13, 2017
Hurdler flat on his face with gold star
Source: Getty

Going for gold: an exciting new competition!

Everyone has a strong opinion about the results of the recent teaching excellence framework.

But how objective are these varied opinions?

Some cynics have suggested that comments about the TEF’s validity and reliability may have been influenced by the actual award received by the commentator’s own university.

Is integrity in higher education really so relative? Here’s your chance to find out.

Can you guess the precise nature of the TEF award given to a university from merely reading their response to the exercise?

1. One vice-chancellor thought that the TEF was “a massive game changer” that would “create new hierarchies of universities”. In his opinion, the TEF measured exactly the kinds of things that provoked questions from students and parents on open days.

Did this university receive a gold, silver or bronze award?

2. One leading history lecturer thought that it was “hugely frustrating” when academics and students who had decried the metrics behind the TEF now “widely celebrated” their new “shiny medals”. The lecturer thought that such hypocrisy was “galling” and declared that the TEF needed to be dramatically overhauled “if it is to do as it claims and measure ‘teaching excellence’ ”.

Gold? Silver? Bronze?

3. One vice-chancellor thought that the TEF’s benchmarking process was “fundamentally flawed” and found it hard to have confidence in a TEF that appeared “devoid of any meaningful assessment of teaching”.

Gold? Silver? Bronze?

4. One vice-chancellor thought that instead of focusing “on detailed arguments about methodology, we should welcome this first attempt to assess and recognise excellent teaching”.

Gold? Silver? Bronze?

5. One vice-chancellor thought that the TEF was “a very welcome endorsement of what students, schools and colleges” already knew about his university.

Gold? Silver? Bronze?

6. One vice-provost for education said that she had once been “very critical” of attempts to measure teaching, but now regarded the TEF as “a godsend” for university teaching and thought that universities must participate in the exercise rather than “just be critical”.

Gold? Silver? Bronze?

7. One vice-chancellor said that the TEF was a measure that truly separated “the wheat from the chaff”.

Gold? Silver? Bronze?


Who were the speakers?
What colour medals went to their university? 



Dominic Shellard, vice-chancellor, De Montfort University



Emilie Murphy, lecturer in early modern history, University of York



Sir Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor, University of Southampton



Graham Galbraith, vice-chancellor, University of Portsmouth



Alec Cameron, vice-chancellor, Aston University



Simone Buitendijk, vice-provost for education, Imperial College London



The vice-chancellor, Poppleton University


Seven correct: Verdict: your deep cynicism would appear to have some merit.

Below seven correct: Verdict: it rather looks as though your naive belief in the power of objective truth to overcome the pull of special interests may once again have let you down.

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