The new TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) results have been announced for Higher Education.
Gold Awards go to Cambridge, Oxford, Newcastle, Leeds, Bath, Lancaster and Huddersfield among others. Those receiving silver include Bristol, Durham, UCL, Kings College London, UEA, Hull, Manchester, Northumbria, Sunderland, Teesside and York.
Bronze goes to Goldsmiths, Liverpool, LSE, SOAS, Southampton and York St John. Edinburgh and Queen's Belfast didn't join in as it really applies to England. Some of the universities used to being top of other tables - which include research measures and the A level grades of their students - are not happy.
The TEF awards are not exactly about excellent teaching, they include six factors. Three are from the National Student Survey already available on the NSS and UNISTATS websites. These are student opinions of quality of teaching, assessment and academic support. The others are dropout rate and two destinations measures (employment/further study and high skills employment/further study, both recorded six months after graduation).
These results are compared with national benchmarks which are adjusted, mainly by student background (gender, ethnicity, disability and socioeconomic home area). This is designed to better reward the contribution universities make to advancing the life chances of different groups of students.
Gold awards are awarded to those which do better than average on three or more measures and not badly on any, bronze if they do badly on two or more, and silver awarded to the rest. Final judgements are moderated by a panel of experts.
There are problems with the measures. Subjective opinions of both students and experts are used and the data is not quite current. More seriously, this first round of awards are given at university level, not course level which applicants should use when choosing places. In future, courses or groups of courses will be graded. Awards will last for up to three years, although universities can ask to be re-graded earlier (they can also opt out).
Overall concerns are that too much weight will be given to the overall grade by applicants and their families, and that too much emphasis in marketing by universities may be misleading. As ever, those applicants with access to expert advice which helps them drill down to a range of data at course level in UNISTATS etc, and use prospectuses and websites to identify the course they will thrive on, will have an advantage in making the best choices.
Since, in future, the extent to which universities are able to increase their maximum tuition fees to keep up with inflation will depend on the metal of their medal, universities will want to perform better. In theory this should be good news for students.