Durham University fails in bid to appeal Silver rating

By Jack Reed

Durham University’s appeal against the Silver Award it received in the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) has failed, according to a recent announcement by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce).

A total of 18 appeals were issued against the TEF ratings, but only that of the University of East Anglia (UEA) found success, seeing its rating upgraded from Silver to Gold. Although Durham’s statement of findings has been altered, its Silver rating remains in place.

Several other Russell Group universities that appealed alongside Durham, such as Liverpool, Southampton and York, have also had their appeals rejected.

The TEF is a controversial rating system that measures a university’s teaching quality through a variety of different data sources. The government has previously suggested universities will have to participate in and meet the basic requirements of the TEF in order to increase tuition fees.

Despite UEA’s successful appeal, still less than half of the 21 Russell Group universities have been rated as Gold, with only nine such institutions awarded the TEF’s premier title.

When the ratings were initially announced, Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, noted Durham University’s qualms about the methodology behind the rating system.

Professor Houston said in an email to all students: “Having reviewed TEF data and procedures, we plan to appeal. Durham is an exceptional institution, and we believe it should be rated Gold.

“Of course, no rating system is perfect, and no educational institution is without challenges. Durham’s Education Strategy has identified important areas for improvement, ranging from the construction of a state-of-the-art teaching and learning facility to the introduction of lecture capture and a new digital learning environment.”

Nevertheless, the Silver rating means Durham has met the minimum requirements set by the TEF and will still be able to go ahead with its plans to raise tuition fees above £9,250 for the 2018/2019 academic year.

Photograph: Durham University

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