TEF: What do students think of their university’s ratings?

Students from institutions rated gold, silver and bronze express their views on the UK government’s teaching excellence framework (TEF) and consider if it makes a difference to how they view their university

July 6 2017
gold silver bronze TEF rating

Gold-rated university – University of Cambridge

Lili Bidwell is an undergraduate French and Spanish student at the University of Cambridge

It does not surprise me that the University of Cambridge has received a gold award in the TEF. 

For students considering applying to Cambridge, I think this framework will prove useful because it will be another source of information about the university. This one is particularly helpful given its focus on teaching standards.That this is a government-stamped resource could also be reassuring for some students.

This can be helpful for prospective students because other university rankings can be skewed through considering all the different aspects of higher education [such as research].

The gold rating for Cambridge signifies that the university has high teaching standards and that students there can progress whatever their background. This emphasis on high-quality teaching for all will hopefully make the university seem more approachable and may encourage more students to view it as a viable option, especially those from state schools.

As a Cambridge student, I would agree that the university offers a high standard of teaching. We have supervisions in small groups, sometimes one-to-one, which provides us the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of our subjects and the chance to ask questions. Small classes and seminars also mean that students bounce ideas off one another.

There are also systems in place for when a student struggles with some aspect of their course. For example, there are termly reports and individual meetings with the director of studies, which help to prevent students from falling through the cracks.


What is the TEF? Results of the teaching excellence framework


Silver-rated university – University of Bristol

Linus Smith in an undergraduate student in Spanish and German at the University of Bristol 

The introduction of the TEF is a step towards dismantling the long bias that has seen many “top-ranked” universities cruise on their name alone – unscathed by factors such as student satisfaction, coursework feedback and pastoral care: areas in which Bristol has underperformed over the past years.

Why, then, has Bristol been able to retain its prestige among prospective undergraduates and employers? I, like many other students at the time, didn’t look to university rankings to make a decision on where to go. The recommendations from teachers coupled with a university’s employability rates were two of the main factors.

However, going on the word of your teachers is just another form of following the “name”. Moreover, employability rates can fall into the trap of prestige: perhaps companies have had a history of Bristol graduates, or some people involved in the company’s recruitment are Bristol alumni themselves.The possibilities are endless, and it becomes hard to identify which is correct.

What strikes me as the most important facet of the TEF is its emphasis on teaching rather than research. This is where we start to see the destruction of prestige. Bristol has always been a leader in research: respect was (and still is to some extent) born out of research power. This ideology is changing, and a university now gains respect for its career prospects.

With the introduction of the TEF, we start to see a more stringent accountability emerge. What is certain is that companies will start assessing students on the quality of education received rather than on where it came from. This, in turn, will have an effect on students’ decisions when Ucas applications come around. Universities such as Bristol that have benefited from their name are now slowly being forced to focus more on the students – and this can only be a good thing.


TEF: striking the balance between teaching and research for students


Bronze-rated university – London School of Economics and Political Science

Anya Bukshi is a master’s student in environment and development at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

As an LSE student, I am quite perplexed by its bronze TEF rating. My year here has been nothing short of excellent.

First, the professors I have been taught by are all at the cutting edge of research, with their work being celebrated at major conferences attended by leading academics. Students are also able to attend such conferences.

Second, the teaching staff have always welcomed us during their office hours as well as encouraging us to email them if we want to discuss a query or share an idea.

Third, the LSE has invested time, money and effort in improving the student experience. An example of this is the new student support centre: LSE LIFE. This centre provides one-to-one advice and guidance to students covering a variety of topics, such as essay-writing, dissertation planning, stress management and career development.

I believe that this TEF ranking does not reflect the work that the LSE is doing to develop its students. I also think it is crucial to remember that a student, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level, must take the initiative to use the services offered and make the most of the time they spend at the LSE. Despite the strong outreach efforts from LSE Library, LSE LIFE, LSE Careers, LSE Students’ Union, LSE Language Centre and the Student Services Centre, there are still students who fail to get the full experience through no fault but their own. 

Personally, I would study at the LSE again even though the TEF result was not favourable. I believe that the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and other rankings hold more weight when prospective students consider their future alma maters.

Read more: TEF: what does a recent graduate think of the framework?

Reader's comments (1)

Well unsurprisingly Kingston Uni has done bad again! I cannot stress how bad this uni is including the teaching quality. It never seems to get its act together to improve despite its abysmal reputation. Well Kingston, maybe not shutting down most of the University over the summer might help. There are still postgraduate & international students studying over this period yet the facilities at this uni go into lock down, such as the library, which shuts to early! Many students & researchers have paid a lot of money for such a poor service. Really do not bother with this uni!

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