Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Self-Inflicted TEF

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Self-Inflicted TEF

Article excerpt

The exercise will help to drive home the message that v-cs must now champion good teaching, says Anthony Seldon

The higher education Green Paper has already stirred considerable controversy. Few aspects have caused more concern than what it has to say about the teaching excellence framework, with Andrew Hamilton, the outgoing vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, warning that it could send negative messages to the world about the quality of teaching at British universities. If any other v-cs agree with him, they have only themselves to blame for failing to provide the quality of leadership of teaching that their students deserve.

I am deeply proud to be a vice-chancellor, having started at the University of Buckingham two months ago. I am very conscious that the UK's universities rank among the strongest in the world and that the sector as a whole is a shining beacon of excellence. My criticisms, based on 20 years of leading fast-improving and academically excellent schools, are designed to strengthen universities.

Universities have given insufficient attention to one half of their "higher education" description. They are very keen on the "higher" part, but have given insufficient thought to "education". At worst, "higher" has meant superior, with too little sense that universities are part of an educational continuum, building on the work of schools. Universities could learn much from schools, not the least that excellent teaching and learning do not happen automatically, but have to be learned and developed, as in any other profession. Schoolteachers have an extensive period of initial teacher training, then regular lesson observation, mentoring, self-appraisal and continuous professional development. Harry Brighouse, professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writes well on how university teachers can similarly learn.

Another key lesson from schools is that heavy inspection regimes, as those of Ofsted at its worst can be, are counterproductive, bureaucratic, demoralising, and lead to dull and formulaic teaching. As profoundly as I believe that teaching at all universities needs to improve to the standards that can be found in parts of all universities, I do not favour heavy-handed external bodies being created to achieve it. …

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