UCLan recognised across various national ratings but Times Good University Guide ranking is questioned

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has recently acheived two prestigious awards from national bodies but its latest Times Good University Guide ranking is called into question.
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UCLan’s two new awards

UCLan has achieved a silver award in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a national scheme which encourages improvement in teaching, learning, and achieving positive outcomes for students from their studies.

Run by the Office for Students (OfS), the overall judgement is drawn from looking back at the last four years of performance in terms of student satisfaction, continuation, completion, and progression metrics, alongside a 25-page written submission, and a separate, independent submission led by the Students’ Union.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has received two new awards, whilst its Times ranking has been called into question.The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has received two new awards, whilst its Times ranking has been called into question.
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has received two new awards, whilst its Times ranking has been called into question.
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Achieving a Teaching Excellence Framework Silver Award means the university’s student experience and outcomes have been formally assessed as typically very high quality, and there may be some outstanding features.

UCLan’s TEF Silver Award will last for four years and students are encouraged to use TEF ratings as useful context when deciding what and where to study.

The unviersity has also once again been nationally recognised for its very high levels of engagement with local regeneration and with public and third sector organisations.

Results of the third Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), published last Wednesday (September 27), show the institution ranked in the top 20% of English Higher Education Institutions in the areas of local growth and regeneration; working with the public and third sector; and continuous professional development (CPD) and graduate start-ups. UCLan also scored highly in the areas of intellectual property and commercialisation; public and community engagement; and research partnerships.

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UCLan supports or participates in many different organisations and sector bodies, represents Lancashire at regional and national levels (including in discussions with government departments), and helps local employees gain new skills through continuous professional development courses and apprenticeship programmes.

UCLan now has nearly 1,900 degree apprentices, from 750 businesses, on 30 programmes across a wide range of sectors, with five more courses starting this month.

In recent years, the university’s regeneration in Preston has seen investment up to £200 million to transform the centre of the campus, including the creation of the university square and student centre. These sit alongside the Engineering and Innovation Centre which houses a selection of research and knowledge exchange teams working on projects with businesses in areas such as drone technology, robotics, and medtech.

What has UCLan said about these two awards?

Commenting on the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), Vice-Chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin said: “Transforming the lives of students is at the heart of everything we do at the University of Central Lancashire, so to be recognised with a TEF silver for the qualities we care about most is fantastic news.

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“It’s well known that we pride ourselves on being an open and accessible institution for people from all backgrounds. There is so much good practice across the university that we were able to draw upon in our award submission and I’m delighted our drive to continue to improve student experience and outcomes has been recognised.”

On the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), Professor St John Crean, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, said: “I’m delighted this year’s KEF results reflect the fantastic work we do with such a wide range of partners.

“Our results demonstrate our importance as an anchor institution within Lancashire and Cumbria, as we are at the heart of many education, research and training initiatives that are increasing qualifications and skills and boosting inclusion and productivity across the North West.

“I’m particularly pleased that we’ve improved our public and community engagement score as we do many fantastic activities with such a wide number of schools and community groups, including running the award-winning Lancashire Science Festival.”

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How did UCLan do in The Times Good University Guide?

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The University of Central Lancashire was ranked 111th nationally in the 2023 guide.

The league table encompasses data including graduate prospects, degree results, research quality, and student satisfaction and experience.

What’s the issue with this ranking?

For the student satisfaction part, The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide uses the data from the National Student Survey each year.

However for The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023, they used last year’s NSS data (which relates to final year undergraduate students in the 2021/22 academic year), as opposed to the 2023 NSS data (relating to the most recent final year cohort).

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In a statement explaining why this was done, The Times said: “This is due to the late publication date of this year's NSS and that 2023 data may still be subject to appeals.” 

A former member of UCLan’s governing body, Jim Edney, has spoken out about how inaccurate this makes this year’s Good University Guide, especially as UCLan’s NSS results have seen marked improvement this year.

Although he admits there have been some changes to the survey between 2022 and 2023, Mr Edney says across seven shared themes, improvement is clear:

Teaching Quality 2022 2023
Teaching 105th 52nd
Learning opportunities 105th 41st
Asessment and feedback 53rd 28th
Academic support 91st 72nd
Student Experience

Organisation and management

120th 72nd
Learning resources 86th 61st
Student voice 76th 41st
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Jim said: “Using those groupings the University’s correct rankings for Teaching Quality would be 37th and our rank for Student Experience would be 46th. These scores would be a truer and more up-to-date reflection of student satisfaction and would undoubtedly have had a positive impact on the University’s overall ranking in the University Guide.”

He added: “It seems that deadlines are more important than accuracy or the reputations of the Times and of the universities it publishes league tables on.”

The Times has been contacted for comment.

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