A new official system that ranks UK universities according to their teaching quality has given the thumbs down to some of the most known centres of higher education – including those better known in India such as the London School of Economics (LSE).
The first Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) instituted by the apex Higher Education Funding Council of England released on Thursday is intended to help students make informed choices. A separate Research Excellence Framework ranks the quality of research.
Many local and international students, including from India, choose universities for their degree courses based on such rankings, which may vary based on differences in criteria used, but drive student numbers in a sector facing major funding cuts in recent years.
The TEF, which has attracted some criticism from the sector, allocates three markers of quality at the undergraduate level: gold, silver and bronze, based on three criteria: teaching quality, learning environment and student outcomes.
Of the 295 universities, colleges and alternative providers of education assessed, 59 were rated as gold, 116 silver and 56 bronze, including LSE.
Also in the bronze category was the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), Liverpool, Southampton and Goldsmiths.
The ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge were given the gold rating.
The LSE, which is popular among Indian students particularly for postgraduate courses, responded to its bronze rating in a statement: “Rigorous academic standards and independence critical analysis are an essential part of undergraduate education at LSE. We recognise that we have work to do but we are confidence that the education initiatives that we have underway will lead to improvements for our students.”
“However, the challenges around TEF and the limits to the measures it employs are also well-documented,” it added.
Madeleine Atkins, Hefce chief executive, said: “Students invest significant amounts of time and money in their higher education. They rightly expect a high-quality learning experience and outcomes that reflect their potential.”
“The UK already has a high bar for quality and standards, which all universities and colleges must meet. But the TEF judges excellence above and beyond this, clearly showing the highest levels across the sector”.