The green paper released earlier this month, entitled Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, has called into question the current quality of teaching in higher education, and the importance of research and the REF (Research Excellence Framework).
It is interesting that this green paper is ‘very green’ indeed – so much of the detail is open for discussion and consultation, that it is far from becoming a white paper. It does, however, tell us a great deal about how the Government is thinking about Higher Education at the moment.
- Clearly, they are concerned for the UK’s productivity, and skills shortage. The UK is performing badly in comparison to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, with growth in productivity slowing and lower average pay. The Green Paper recognises this and is suggesting that universities provide degrees with “lasting value to their recipients” particularly through the delivery of transferable skills.
- The Green Paper is also demanding great transparency and better information for students, in particular how their tuition fees are spend, and how classes of degrees are awarded (to prevent degree inflation). Students currently struggle to make good choices about where to go to university and what to study, as current information does not enable student to make judgements about teaching quality.
- Higher Education is recognised as a key driver of social mobility, and access for disadvantaged students continues to be very important, with aims to double the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Higher Education by 2020.
- With all the talk of a TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework), the Green Paper outlines proposals for ways to measure standards of teaching in UK universities. The mechanism (still to be determined) will link teaching quality to income (perhaps in the form of higher fees for the best teaching institutions) and give prospective students access to improved information about teaching quality.
The Suffolk Business School is well placed to respond to these challenges – not only do we have an excellent record for high quality teaching and student satisfaction (with 100% student satisfaction in Events and Tourism Management), but we have also developed the Graduate+ scheme to support the development of transferable skills and encourage students to critically reflect on their wider portfolios. We are very proud of the support we offer to all students and already have high proportions of students from so-called “widening participation” backgrounds. UCS has already done much to support social mobility and so is well-equipped to be at the vanguard of efforts to do more in this area.
The Suffolk Business School is committed to the continual improvement of teaching standards and in recent years has made particular efforts to improve the quality of feedback for students and access to lecturers for tutorials and other support. We currently run a number of small projects to enhance the quality of provision through better use of technology and will be disseminating these both internally and externally. We therefore welcome an assessment of teaching standards as long as the mechanism for doing so supports improvement and recognises that a reliance on measures of outcomes alone is unlikely to give a good measure of the value added by teaching. Alongside efforts to improve transparency of university provision, a TEF should be broadly welcomed.