National benchmarking, the way forward for HE

After achieving a ‘Gold’ rating in the first round of TEF results, Derby explain why such a system will set the standard for teaching quality

By Dr Ruth Ayres, Dean of Learning Enhancement, University of Derby, and Professor Malcolm Todd, Pro Vice-Chancellor Academic & Student Experience at the University of Derby.

As an institution, we were delighted to receive the highest rating ‘Gold’ in the government’s recently introduced Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). We were one of the 59 providers rated ‘Gold’ out of a total number of 295 participating universities, colleges and alternative providers.

Derby has held a long-established commitment and strategic approach to providing high quality learning and teaching and an excellent student experience for all learners, whatever their background. We are delighted that our work in supporting and enabling students to achieve their full potential has been recognised in this way. As a University, we all feel a real sense of pride in our achievement.

Whilst the institutional TEF rating is not at present part of any University league tables, some of the current TEF metrics do contribute to University league tables. Students are likely to look at an institution’s TEF rating alongside a range of other information currently available to applicants to judge teaching quality and inform their choice of which HE provider to attend. The outcomes of TEF for different types of HE provider, and home and international student recruitment, are still to be realised.

We believe that it is likely that prospective students will be curious to know the difference between HE providers ranked ‘Bronze’, ‘Silver’ or ‘Gold’, particularly at a time when 34% of undergraduate students viewed their courses as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ value for money in the 2017 Student Academic Experience Survey conducted by the Higher Education Academy and Higher Education Policy Institute. Student expectations are likely to be heightened in ‘Gold’ ranked institutions, with HE providers required to demonstrate why they are ‘Gold’ and what they are delivering for the additional fees linked to TEF results that can be charged from academic year 2020/21, following the introduction of the government’s Higher Education and Research Act (2017).

This new national benchmarking by Government places the University of Derby in the top 20% of HE providers in terms of teaching quality

Recent research conducted by Hobsons, indicates a real spread of understanding of TEF by prospective international students, with only 21.2% of international students claiming to have heard of TEF and many students not knowing what TEF is, or how it is measured. Despite these findings, international students who have heard of TEF and those who haven’t, both said they would be more likely to choose a university with a ‘Gold’ TEF Award above one with high rankings; albeit they would be more likely to choose a university with high rankings above one with a ‘Bronze’ or ‘Silver’ award. This signifies the importance of TEF in the global higher education marketplace.

This new national benchmarking by Government places the University of Derby in the top 20% of HE providers in terms of teaching quality. What is evident is that our learners are engaging with high quality teaching and that this will have a positive impact on their future progression into employment or further study.

Derby’s excellence in learning and teaching has been acknowledged through the institution’s strong performance in a range of national metrics over recent years, including top 20 for teaching quality in the UK in the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide and top quartile for ‘assessment and feedback’ in the National Student Survey (NSS) over the last four years. Most recently, the University of Derby has also been shortlisted as one 27 finalists in the Higher Education Academy’s (HEA) first Global Teaching Excellence Awards (GTEA). GTEA is awarded to an institution as a whole in recognition of institution-wide approaches to teaching excellence. The award, in partnership with Times Higher Education, is open to all providers of higher education and GTEA 2017 included entries from around the world.

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