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UEA awarded silver in Government’s new TEF ranking

UEA students

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has been awarded a silver ranking in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the Government’s new method of assessing the quality of teaching delivered by higher education providers.

The voluntary rankings, announced today (22 June), rate institutions gold, silver or bronze and are designed to give students better information to help them decide what and where to study. They will also sharpen focus on the importance of teaching in higher education by recognising excellence and assessing how well prepared students are for employment or further study.

“We were involved in the consultation about how TEF’s assessment criteria should be shaped and welcome its detailed examination of the teaching quality offered by universities,” said Prof Neil Ward, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at UEA. “We’ve always maintained a strong focus on teaching, because that’s what really matters to students.”

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

“We were very pleased 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,” said Prof Ward. “What’s particularly satisfying, is the success of our efforts to significantly reduce the attainment gap for disadvantaged students.

“Our focus for improvement in terms of achieving gold in the future is around employability, where UEA is below the TEF benchmark. This is an area we have been focusing on in recent years. We have invested more than £2 million 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.”

One of TEF’s key components is the annual National Student Survey (NSS), which gathers undergraduates’ opinions about their course and is one of the most influential sources of information for prospective students. UEA is the only mainstream English university to have been ranked in the top five for student satisfaction since the survey began in 2005.

The link between a university’s TEF ranking and its right to raise fees in the future has caused concern, resulting in a call by some Students’ Unions to boycott this year’s NSS.

“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,” said Prof Ward.

UEA Students’ Union sabbatical officer and member of UEA Council Amy Rust said: “Students consistently tell us they love UEA - especially the quality of teaching and its supportive environment - but there’s always room to make it better. Career and employment benefits aren’t the only reason for going to university, but these days university is a big investment for students and it’s clear from these results that the university needs to redouble its efforts to draw meaningful links between academia and the world of work. That’s an approach that will benefit them, the university and the wider community in Norfolk and Suffolk.”

Great teachers do more than pass on learning, they inspire students and help shape their future careers. Dr Eylem Atakav, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, is one such teacher at UEA. Her exceptional contribution was recognised in 2016 when she was appointed a National Teaching Fellow, the foremost accolade a higher education teaching professional can receive. Among her other awards are the 2016 Award for Outstanding Pedagogical Achievement by the Society of Cinema and Media Studies and, in the same year, the Most Inclusive Teacher of the Year Award from UEA Students’ Union.

“You can achieve a lot by thinking differently about education,” she said. “Academics don’t belong in ivory towers, focusing only on their own work. We must understand students and what they want, and involve them in what we do and our professional networks. I believe that it’s vital to take students outside the classroom to inspire them and truly prepare them for the world of work.

“For example, I arranged for a group of students to help run the Golden Island International Film Festival in Cyprus. It was an exciting and challenging project that gave them experience at international level, something study in a classroom alone could never do. I also involved students when I was asked to contribute to a House of Lords report on religion in public life. Students have a lot to offer, and it’s important that we listen to them, which is something I believe we do at UEA.”