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Top universities fail to win 'gold' under new ranking system

161214 UCL Bartlett 007
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A number of leading universities with prestigious architecture schools have failed to achieve the ‘gold’ standard under the government’s new teaching excellence framework (TEF) university rankings

UCL, of which the Bartlett School of Architecture is part, the University of Sheffield, the University for the Creative Arts and the University of Cardiff (Welsh School of Architecture) – all listed in the Guardian’s Top 10 2018 university rankings for architecture – achieved silver ratings under the new assessment system.

Meanwhile the universities of Liverpool and Southampton, both members of the esteemed Russell Group, could only manage bronze ratings.

The controversial ratings of more than 130 UK undergraduate universities followed an independent assessment by a group of academics, students and employers who based their scores on six core metrics, focusing on teaching quality.

This rating is based on an average score from across the departments of each university. There is not an isolated score for these institutions’ architecture schools. 

The panel handed its highest rating – gold – to 15 universities with RIBA-accredited architecture courses, including the University of Bath; the University of Cambridge; the University of Huddersfield and the University of Kent (see below). 

Alan Dunlop, chair in contemporary architecture practice at the University of Liverpool, said the details of the grading system were ‘vague’.

He said: ‘For the new rankings to have real credibility and before any true assessment of the TEF can be made, how they were determined has to be made absolutely clear.’ 

He added that the list included ‘many surprising results’, with newer universities like Robert Gordon, which received a gold rating, faring better than Russell Group universities such as Bristol and Liverpool.

The new TEF rankings only include undergraduate programmes, and so exclude a number of institutes offering Part 2 MA Architecture courses, such as the Royal College of Art.

Harriet Harriss, senior tutor in interior design and architecture at the Royal College of Art, described the TEF assessment as an ‘unadulterated disaster for real teaching excellence’.

She said: ‘Of course student feedback is important and valued, but this way of doing it is driven by a political ideology that wants to turn students into customers and universities into educational supermarkets.

‘And, as the data reveals, it is the struggling students who are most likely to leave negative feedback, which in turn incentivises universities to dumb down their content to keep their “customers” happy. The net impact is that the TEF damages the very thing it seeks to reward – teaching excellence.’

She added that, for schools of architecture, the TEF ratings represent a ‘worrying threat to our tradition of school individualism, autonomy and innovation’. 

However Carl Meddings, a lecturer in architecture at the University of Huddersfield, said all of the staff at the institution ‘worked hard’ to achieve the gold rating.

He added that the TEF rating is ‘primarily based upon measures that put students first and therefore aligns perfectly with our own aims objectives’.

Universities with architecture schools that gained a TEF gold rating

  • University of Bath
  • University of Huddersfield 
  • University of Cardiff (Welsh School of Architecture) 
  • University of Kent
  • Arts University Bournemouth
  • University of Cambridge
  • Coventry University
  • De Montfort University
  • University of Lincoln
  • Newcastle University 
  • University of Nottingham
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • University of Portsmouth
  • Robert Gordon University
  • University of Dundee







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Readers' comments (1)

  • The article says The Welsh School of Architecture only achieved Silver rating. However, the table at the bottom says the school achieved Gold. Clarity would be greatly appreciated.

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