Base medals

June 1, 2017

When the teaching excellence framework was first mooted, I assumed that, like the Quality Assurance Agency teaching assessments with which I was associated in the early days, it would be by subject. It seemed as if it could be useful in guiding students, for a particular subject, towards universities to which they were applying. I could scarcely believe it when I learned that it was whole universities that were going to be judged as gold, silver or bronze standard.

What use is that going to be? If a student is planning to study, say, history at university, what use is it for him/her to know what standard the university has reached? It could well be bronze standard overall but gold standard in history.

And how does a committee reach a gold, silver or bronze decision for a particular university? The mind boggles. Are some departments considered to be of more importance than others? There will be many borderline cases, and lawyers could well be preparing for cases of universities suing the Higher Education Funding Council for England for a misjudgment in the medal awarded.

Whenever I am asked for advice for students applying to universities, I always recommend that they look at the research excellence framework ratings and use those as a good guide to the quality of departments. When these medals are awarded, I shall recommend that potential university students take very little notice of them.

Michael Hollas
Henley-on-Thames


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Reader's comments (1)

I think Michael Hollas has identified a serious flaw in the TEF, with major consequences for "gold standard" departments in "bronze standard" universities.

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