Dundee and St Andrews are among the UK’s elite universities after securing the highest ratings for quality of teaching.
They are among just three Scottish universities to be awarded gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) published today.
Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen also received top marks.
Meanwhile, Dundee’s Abertay University was awarded silver.
The TEF is a new measure introduced by the UK Government to assess the quality of teaching, student support and the learning environment at universities nationwide.
Dundee is Scottish University of the Year 2017 and St Andrews is the UK University of the Year for Teaching Quality 2017. Both universities have scored consistently highly in the annual National Student Survey.
The TEF’s principal finding at Dundee and St Andrews was that “students from all backgrounds achieve outstanding outcomes.”
Dundee was praised for giving its students a comprehensive range of opportunities to develop skills and knowledge valued by employers.
St Andrews was said to demonstrate “exemplary teaching” through the development and sharing of good practice.
St Andrews principal Professor Sally Mapstone said: “It’s striking that two universities almost cheek by jowl in Fife and Tayside have done so very well in the TEF.
“These awards confirm that students coming to university in this part of the world will have a very special experience in universities that have both global reach and a strong student focus.”
Dundee University vice-principal Professor Karl Leydecker said: “The TEF offers solid evidence to prospective and current students of the quality of teaching and student support they can expect at university, which at Dundee and St Andrews is of gold standard.”
St Andrews students’ association president Charlotte Andrew said: “Students at St Andrews and Dundee have long recognised the exceptional quality of teaching at our two universities.
“I hope that these well-deserved gold awards incentivise additional prospective students from around the world to consider applying to study in this part of Scotland.”
Indre Urbanaviciute, president of Dundee University Students’ Association, added: “This is a hugely impressive result for the region to have both ourselves and St Andrews awarded Gold status but at the same time it is not a surprise.
“We know the community and the student experience here on the east coast of Scotland is as good as you will find anywhere and the TEF gold is further recognition of that.”
TEF keeps the focus on teaching, says expert
In 2014 the Research Excellence Framework (REF) was introduced to assess the quality of research at higher education institutions across the UK.
“There has been concern that because that assessment exists, it leads to an over-emphasis on the importance of research at the expense of teaching,” said Keir Bloomer, an independent education consultant.
“The UK Government believed that the introduction of a framework which looked at teaching excellence would be a counter balance to that.”
While participation in the TEF is not compulsory, with some universities — including the University of the Highlands and Islands — choosing to opt out.
UHI deputy principal Professor Crichton Lang explained: “Many other institutions in Scotland have decided not to participate. Like them, we are not yet sufficiently assured that this new framework will align with the current Quality Enhancement Framework operating in Scotland.”
Mr Bloomer said: “As far as universities in England are concerned, the fact that it could be a pathway to increase fees means the incentive to participate is powerful.”