Aston University goes Gold in game-changing TEF rankings

  • Aston receives highest award in the Government’s new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)
  • Panel finds ‘very high proportions’ of students from all backgrounds finding highly skilled work
  • TEF set to be a game changer for UK universities, emphasising student satisfaction and teaching over research
  • Aston Vice Chancellor: “The TEF has opened a discussion about what it means to be an elite university today.”

A new Government league table tipped to be a game changer for UK universities due to its unprecedented emphasis on teaching quality and student satisfaction has given Aston University a Gold award – the highest possible accolade.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), published today (22 June), found that students from all backgrounds achieve ‘consistently outstanding outcomes’ at Aston, with very high proportions of students going into highly skilled employment or further study.

It noted outstanding levels of student satisfaction with teaching, assessment and feedback, and academic support for a diverse body of students, notably exceeding benchmarks. Aston was considered outstanding on a wide range of other criteria, including physical and digital resources, course design and assessment practices, and teaching and learning practices for students from all backgrounds.

Higher education institutions across the UK have been anticipating the TEF to be a game changer for the sector due to its unique emphasis on teaching and student satisfaction. According to the White Paper, the TEF was introduced by the Government to push the HE sector to become ‘more accountable to students, as well as to the tax payer’. It also calls for ‘a renewed focus on high-quality teaching in universities so that it has the same prestige as research’.

This approach marks a departure from the traditional emphasis on research strengths commonplace in major rankings in favour of measuring factors like teaching quality, graduate employability and student satisfaction.

Professor Alec Cameron, Vice Chancellor of Aston University, said:

“The TEF has opened a discussion about what it means to be an elite university today. Until now, we have been judged in rankings tables largely based on our research strengths. It is true that research is a fundamental element of the higher education sector, and our strong partnerships with industry, the professions, and others have helped us develop an impressive record on research for a university of our size.

“But clearly, our research specialisms are not the main consideration for prospective students. Student outcomes and student satisfaction are among the most important factors for students choosing a place to study, and I am pleased that the Government has recognised this.

“Measured against the many globally-renowned institutions we have in the UK, Aston has been ranked Gold – the highest award. This is a very welcome endorsement of what students, employers, schools and colleges already know – that Aston is excellent for teaching, excellent for student experience, and excellent for job prospects after graduation.”

In its Statement of Findings, the TEF Panel’s judgement gave particular reference to:

  • outstanding physical and digital resources that are actively and consistently used by students, including 24/7 access around assessment periods, universal lecture recording, and implementation of the MyAston app resource
  • an embedded and strategic institutional culture that facilitates, recognises and rewards teaching, including support from the University’s Centre for Learning, Innovation and Professional Practice
  • outstanding personalised provision with the highest levels of engagement and commitment, including bookable personal tutoring sessions and a substantial number of trained student peer mentors
  • course design and assessment practices that provide scope for outstanding levels of stretch and challenge resulting in the highest levels of student engagement
  • the strategic involvement of professional bodies and employers impacting on embedded employability skills, including the integrated placement year, pre-entry masterclasses, the Talent Bank placement matching service, and the Aston Professional Mentoring scheme
  • outstanding teaching and learning practices for students from all backgrounds, with highly valued specialist disability and non-continuation staff strategically supporting students from non-traditional or first-to-university backgrounds.

Venandah Madanhi, an undergraduate law student at Aston University, said:

“The teaching quality at Aston is outstanding. I believe the level of dedication lecturers give to students as individuals has allowed me to grow intellectually by creating a learning environment where it is okay to ask questions.

“The fact the lecturers actively take steps to ensure that the content we learn is up to date and taught in the context of the business world is impressive. For example, the Law School has held a variety of campus events which have enabled students to network effectively with speakers from a wide range of organisations including Shakespeare Martineau, the Civil Service, CILEx and KPMG.

“I believe I have great job prospects once I graduate thanks to my time at Aston. The commercially focused nature of my modules and the encouragement by staff to work on commercial fluency has helped me when applying for roles. The many networking opportunities I have been invited to have allowed me to become a more confident person when meeting new people and have also led to successful work experience placements.”

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