UEA has been awarded a silver ranking in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a new government assessment that evaluates undergraduate student experience.

Participation in the TEF is voluntary and higher education providers decide whether or not they wish to take part. The new exercise ranks institutions gold, silver, or bronze.

The results of the TEF are based upon metrics of student satisfaction, retention and graduate employment, and submissions made by institutions. Part of the research was the annual National Student Survey (NSS), which gathers the opinions of undergraduates on their course and university experience.

Despite not receiving gold overall, Professor Neil Ward Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) said that the university was pleased to hear that “teaching at UEA achieves a gold standard (‘notably exceeding’ TEF’s benchmark for satisfaction with teaching and academic support) and that reflects our firm commitment to teaching excellence.”

UEA missed out on gold owing to an underperformance in graduate employment metrics.

Prof Ward said: “This is an area we have been focusing on in recent years. We have invested more than £2m in our careers service and we are working hard to increase employability support and opportunities for our students from the day they start at UEA.”

Commenting on the TEF results, SU Campaigns and Democracy Officer Amy Rust said: “We’re obviously disappointed that UEA didn’t get gold, but given the main reason seems to have been the university’s performance on graduate employment that at least means it knows where to focus.”

The SU suggested that the university’s approach to extra-curricular activities is inadequate.

Miss Rust said: “Whilst the Careers Central service is great, it’s obvious to students that the university’s approach to extra-curricular activities is disjointed and uncoordinated, and the approach to employability within the curriculum is often piecemeal and feels like an afterthought.

She added: “Education isn’t just about earnings, but given the investment students make in university it’s vital that UEA helps them get good jobs.”
The government has indicated that universities who have a TEF award will be able to increase their tuition fees in line with inflation, which UEA intends to do next year, raising yearly fees by £250. The National Union of Students (NUS) called on students’ unions across the country to boycott this year’s NSS, suggesting that there is a link between a university’s TEF ranking and its right to raise fees in the future.

Professor Ward noted: “Currently, the rankings make no difference to the amount universities can charge, and we believe that students want to attend a university where they can be confident that the teaching they’ll receive is of top quality.”

The TEF’s focus on teaching standards challenges traditional university rankings, where research-intensive universities have typically dominated the higher positions.

45 universities received gold, 67 received silver, and 25 received the lowest rating of bronze. The University of Essex and the University of Cambridge both scored gold in the rankings.