University drops down league table

ACADEMICS AND ADMIN staff have criticised teaching standards at York at the same time as a new study sees the University of York lose its place at the top of a teaching quality league table.

Under a reworking of Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) teaching scores, the University has dropped from 1st to 57th place in a teaching quality league table.

This has come at a time when numerous academics and staff have expressed concerns about declining teaching quality at York as a result of the concentration of senior management on the Heslington East expansion.

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A Senior Departmental Administrator told Nouse “the University needs a kick up the arse: we have become complacent”. The Administrator, who wished to remain anonymous, also added “I think we are spending far too much time, money and effort on Heslington East”.

The recalibrated league table and accompanying study was first published in the journal Quality in Higher Education. The study, written by a team of academics led by Professor Robert Raeside of Napier University Edinburgh, submits that general “bias” has until now favoured pre-1992 universities.

YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer Amy Foxton also drew attention to York’s drop from the top ten universities in the Times 2007 League Table, in which it has dropped from 7th to 15th place this year, as indicative of declining teaching quality.

Furthermore, Professor Tom Baldwin, Board of Studies Chair for Politics Economics and Philosophy, who recently spoke out to criticise University plans to change module structures, said “What’s worth attention are the dramatic differences in staff/student ratios in different University departments, which are bound to have a knock-on effects on teaching”.

However, some University officials and staff have dismissed the new study. Trevor Sheldon, Pro Vice Chancellor for Teaching said “It is nothing official and is highly contestable and not official either.

“This is just some research done by some academics which was published which uses a range of statistical techniques to re-analyse the old teaching quality assessments carried out by the TQA.

Amy Foxton said “it is worrying to see York rated so poorly in terms of teaching but I think it’s important to look at the data of these results, which were collected before current York undergraduates had entered sixth form.”

Professor Raeside said of the research paper “the article is about demonstrating that using qualitative ratings as scores is wrong and this leads to the creation of league tables which are unreliable”

Alistair Rider, an academic in the York Archaeology Department, said “it seems highly unlikely that the University will want to maintain a good teacher-student ratio [after the Heslington East development], and so I can only see the academic quality in many parts of the University slipping”.

An academic from the English and Related Literature Department who requested anonymity said “The expansion [Heslington East] appears to be proceeding at the expense of our excellent teaching research profile.”

A 3rd year student of Educational Studies complained about the quality of their department, saying “I’ve applied for a PGCE and failed as my supervisor managed to use the wrong grade on my application form. They down graded my predicted grade rom a 1st to a 2:1.” They added “If you get the wrong tutor you’re screwed”.

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