Teaching Excellence for Student Success

<strong>Teaching Excellence for Student Success</strong>

In the past year, the HEA has worked in support of teaching in higher education (HE) in over 40 countries. We’ve noticed, without exception, that HE is under scrutiny from stakeholders as never before. Governments, employers, funders, philanthropists, students, potential students and parents are looking critically at the value and quality of HE. Primarily, for them, that means excellence in teaching.

How teaching excellence is defined can vary considerably depending on your own professional context in HE. We know that wherever academics are in the world, and whatever their role in teaching, they are motivated to do the best for their students by being the best they can be. Part of that motivation is to take a dynamic approach to teaching, anticipating and responding to a rapidly changing world.

To get the debate started Professor Stephanie Marshall, HEA CEO, talks about her conversation with VCs from around the world on their view of future challenges in HE.


Rising to the Challenges of Tomorrow

"There is a particular focus on ‘teaching excellence’ as the means by which the present and future workforce can be supported in responding to (these) key challenges, becoming suitably skilled up, inspired and motivated to make an engaged contribution."
Professor Stephanie Marshall, CEO, Higher Education Academy

This short report sets out to identify key challenges for higher education, as identified by a range of global leaders, moving on to address how these might be addressed, focusing on workforce development.

Download the report


Join the debate - #TESS_HE

The Higher Education Academy is creating a global platform to provide an opportunity to learn and share
from each other; to better understand the challenges and opportunities so that excellent teaching at all levels
continues to evolve and thrive everywhere.

  • What are the future challenges facing teaching in HE?
  • How is teaching excellence best achieved?
  • 'What works' in enhancing student success?


We want to hear from you in this debate - #TESS_HE

This is your chance to have your say. You can leave a comment or join in social media discussion using the #TESS_HE,
or submit a blog or thought piece that we could publish on your behalf.

We plan for this debate to culminate in a global event and a ‘what works’ publication next year.

Teaching excellence - the debate

We are welcoming contributions from around the sector, here are some of the latest.

Teaching excellence in HE

Addressing the emotional and spiritual needs of the emerging adult

In exploring the notion of ‘excellence’ in university teaching we have adopted a number of paradigmatic lenses to guide our sensemaking. The first...

Dr Karen Blakeley and Dr Sabine Bohnaker, University of Winchester Centre of Responsible Management – Responsible Management Education Group

Read More >

Brief Thoughts on Teaching Excellence: ‘What Works’ to Enhance Student Success?

Answer: Being Clear

The coming subject-level Teaching Excellence Framework will measure ‘excellence' - an aggregate category if ever there was one - in numerous ways... 

Dr David Hitchcock, Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University

Read More >

And there's more


Further contributions can be found in our Teaching Excellence blog area.

#TESS_HE... the story so far

Catch up with the conversation around #TESS_HE with our regular storify of the social debate so far.

Storify 1 Commentary - 2-13 November

In the first review Doug Cole, Head of Student Success from the Higher Education Academy comments on the conversation so far.

"While I was writing this commentary on the Twitter Storify on the new debate, Teaching Excellence for Student Success #TESS_HE, I was definitely struck by the variety of opinions.

There’s a wide range of really interesting tweets from academics and organisations, which is great to see. While there are some areas where people clearly agree, in other areas views are further apart - but then that’s the whole point of the debate!"

Read More I Read the Storify

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Your comments

Below are a selection of your comments on the #TESS_HE debate.

Tuesday 14th November 02:42 GMT

I would suggest to look into 9 cognitive 'principles' by MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito and Wired contributor Jeff Howe to help us adapt to our fast-paced world (applicable to Higher Education):

1. Emergence over authority

2. Pull over push

3. Compasses over maps

4. Risk over safety

5. Disobedience over compliance

6. Practice over theory

7. Diversity over ability

8. Resilience over strength

9. Systems over objects


Bruce Lee Xia Sheng, Lecturer & BIM Lead, School of the Built Environment, University of Reading Malaysia (UoRM)


Wednesday 8 November 09.56 GMT

As a Professor of Critical Theory, my priority is to engage with all of my students at all levels (from BA to PhD) to work through their own assumptions and beliefs, starting from where they are, not where I want them to be. This entails teaching in a radically inclusive and radically student-led way, by not pre-planning courses or teaching ‘content’ and by not setting-up prior expectations of what will happen in my seminars or lectures or supervisions, but allowing this to come out of the student’s assumptions, questions and interests. I am constantly in close detail engaging with their readings and formulations as well as my own. Not infrequently, my students end up with outstanding results in a system which at the same time systematically attacks what my students and I do together: which demands that ‘skills’ and ‘data’ and ‘content’ predetermine at every step what we do, and where ‘transparency’ presupposes that thinking and understanding can and should be made ‘transparent’ – but never asks ‘transparent to whom?’ I am constantly ordered to comply with new structures, managerial demands and spurious numbers (which are never even legitimate ‘statistics’) and no intellectual or pedagogic argument is permitted to be made. Luckily, my amazing and wonderful students enable us to keep doing what we do together, but every day I see how the system fails my students by insisting on university teaching being ‘standardised’ and ‘normativised’ and ‘centralised’, all in the name of quality, but in fact by pushing everything which is different to the perspective of the norm to the margins. Regretfully, I see this too in the language of the HEA itself. Instead of defending to the last stand the centrality of the value of the intellectual life in and of itself, which - when upheld - paradoxically produces the most brilliant scholarship as well as the greatest success for all students, because it does not insist that that success must be the lowest-common-denominator career-for-all, or the brilliant career for just the very few, instead we must all apparently bow down the accepted practices of a pretend-business world to give the students their ‘value for money’. A tragedy which is killing the golden goose of UK higher education even as it claims to be saving it. 

Karin Lesnik-Oberstein, Professor of Critical Theory, University of Reading, UK

Wednesday 8 November 02:50
It is interesting to read the valuable comments from various experts in valuing “Teaching Excellence (TE)”, and I agree with most of the point of views expressed in each. In my view TE is facing challenges and will continue to face, at least in higher education, due to a decline in appreciation by academic institutions. We all have been witnessing how higher education institutions have been thriving for research, which in my view is often commercialised to an extent that TE is getting compromised. It is very obvious in higher education that being extensively involved in research related activities can ensure academic progress, much promising and easier to the one that can be achieved via TE. In the context of producing work-ready graduates, strategies must be developed and focused in the area of academic and teaching excellence, and it should be valued equally if not more of the research excellence.
Dr Syed Imran Ahmed, Senior Lecturer & Programme Director, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia

Tuesday 11 November 20:32

Status and Rewards

Whilst I am aware of a few exceptions, UK Universities do not generally recognise excellence in Teaching as equivalent to excellence in Research despite the fact that the majority of funding in the sector comes from teaching. HEA fellowships are appreciated and recognised in a community within the sector, but this does not necessarily translate to recognition within HEIs. 

As an example, my own university used to have a Readership in Educational Development, which emphasised excellence and contributions in LTA.  However this promotion opportunity was removed some years ago, and any reference to LTA within the position of Reader was also deleted.  In the last year, a supposedly equivalent position of  Senior Teaching Fellowship has been proposed.  Whilst it is good that a promotion path is being restored for LTA excellence, the university refuses to use the title Readership. This refusal to use the same title is significant as it demonstrates the underlying belief that positions are not of equivalent status. The term Reader is well-established and understood, Senior Teaching Fellow is ambiguous, being used in a wide variety of contexts.

Interestingly, student-led teaching awards  at the university are worth £500, whilst  an Early Career Researcher poster prize is worth £2000. The perceived value of each is clear.

This is a real shame, it reinforces the pervading belief that the only way to significant promotion is through research; consequently it drives behaviour to focus on subject research at the expense of anything else (an exhortation that was publicly expressed at a university early career researcher conference). The attitudes are seemingly deeply seated, and will take a very long time to change.  The only way such change will occur is from the top in my view (I can’t remember the last revolution in an HEI) ; yet how have our university leaders (Deans, PVC etc) got there? – often through a research track. Ahh…

Dr Chris Beaumont PhD. FBCS FHEA C|EH, National Teaching Fellow, Quality & Enhancement Lead: Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University

"You must be the change you want to see in the world." ~~ Mahatma Gandhi


Monday 6 November 13:30
"For me, teaching excellence should be synonymous with concepts of accessibility and inclusivity.  

It has only been in very recent history that higher education (HE) has been open to (with, of course, the obvious caveats) anyone other than socially elite groups. It therefore follows that many of the routine approaches to teaching and learning in HE may historically have developed to meet the needs of this relatively narrow group of individuals - a group who, of course, are likely to have had particular educational experiences that may not be commonplace elsewhere.

Contemporary teaching excellence needs to begin with an acknowledgement of recent changes in student demographics and in the economic, social and political culture of HE, and more broadly of the revolutions around how people use, share and communicate information in our societies. I would argue that these seismic shifts have rendered many traditional approaches to teaching and curriculum design in universities obsolete. For instance, much of what I did in the lecture theatre even ten years ago now feels decidedly ill-fitted to the needs of our students and wider communities.  

I would argue that we must find ways to democratise the HE learning experience, and re-define our roles as teachers and tutors accordingly. Excellent teaching should always be accessible teaching, but to achieve this, we may need to challenge some uncomfortable orthodoxies in the systems that we work within."
Tom Muskett, Senior Lecturer, Disability Liaison Officer, Leeds Beckett University

Monday 6 November 12:19
"There is too much stress on metrics and not enough on qualitative evaluation. We need to create self-critical resilient learners who are confident enough to explore — not tick-box exam bunnies. Excitement, debate, disagreement, discovery — that is what is needed in the HE classroom — not churning out dull and predictable answers to stale old questions."
Victoria Neumark Jones, Associate Professor, Journalism, London Metropolitan University

Monday 6 November 2017 05:27
"Education has a whole new meaning in today’s Global context. Like other global concerns education too falls in the same category. As the deliverables expected of a professional need to be of certain standards as to achieve results. Speaking for my profession; graduates especially from China and India are most crucial as they shall contribute to kangaroo urbanisation and developmental activities, with about 35% carbon emissions coming from this sector, this shall be the key. If the professionals are not aptly trained there shall be an explosion of embodied energy that shall jeopardise the climate change, rise in temperature and will not be sustainable. 

Thus the state of higher education in India is significant at this point in time with majority of the population being young and growing economy. It is if utmost importance that organisations like HEA and other such bodies some how dovetailed to address the said agenda. Also to put on record that the rate at which private universities have mushroomed with the sole agenda of profits had deteriorated the quality of education, the situation is quite grave across."
Dr Anjali Krishan Sharma,  Dean & Professor of Architecture and Planning, RBEF & MRIU Private University, Delhi, India

Saturday 4 November 2017 16:26
 "I welcome and read with great interest the 3 key note contributions to the important debate on the future of Teaching Excellence in HE at all levels. Engaging and involving undergraduate students in their own professional development and high level skills from the outset is vital to their success. It is important to strike a balance between knowledge based learning outcomes and relevant projects in conjunction with industry and commerce. This coupled with immediate constructive feedback from their tutors should provide a firm base for teaching excellence from experience."
Keith McGraw,  COLMSCT Associate Teaching Fellow, The Open University 

Friday 3 November 2017 18:28
"I welcome the report of Prof. Marshall. Any report that offers empirical data relating to teaching quality guides the debate further in an educated manner. For me, excellence in teaching is a goal that most academic colleagues share and strive for. A past emphasis in research excellence has led most academics to enhance their profiles with research-related activities. But it would be a mistake to think that teaching excellence has not been pursued with equal intensity. It is time for teaching-related activities to shine through academic profiles. This may well be a buried treasure that institutions must now unearth, but teaching excellence and the strive to achieve it is and has always been present in UK academe.

My personal interpretation of teaching excellence relates to two concepts: the connected curriculum and a strong, participatory student voice. In my career I have experienced the connected curriculum before I became aware of it as a prevalent term: most of my research topics were initially formulated by students as questions during my teaching; and, having researched these questions further, my answers were fed back to my teaching. How can this wonderful cycle of give and take be encouraged, and even enhanced? The connected curriculum requires active participation from students, who receive excellent teaching and thus acquire the knowledge and skills to analyse critically (perhaps even to advance the debate further) through critical questions to the professor. Through a strong participatory student voice academics can set realistic but ambitious learning expectations, and can map the teaching methodology to achieve them. Thus, they create an optimal teaching environment that nurtures students with the confidence, know-how, and skills to serve as effective actors in the connected curriculum cycle.

And so, excellence in teaching is not just about teaching per se. It feeds into student achievement but also through research excellence for current and future researchers."
Professor Helen Xanthaki, Director, International Postgraduate Laws Programmes, University College London

Friday 3 November 2017 16:43
"Research-informed curriculum development is a key component of learning and teaching contents and delivery for excellent student experience; sustainable enhanced student success; proactive engagement; retention; progression; and good exit degree awards.

In my current higher education teaching practice experience, I have found that “proactive formative assessment and feedback is a sustainable tool for student engagement in research-informed curriculum contents learning. Furthermore, I have discovered from my supervised independent final-year student projects that over 90% of our University students would prefer research-informed projects to provide them an opportunity(s) to learn new technologies and applications and boost their employability.”
Dr Sunday Ekpo, Lecturer in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Manchester Metropolitan University

Friday 3 November 2017 09:39
"Especially at a time when the British media are pushing gross misunderstandings of what University education is about, it's critical that we articulate loud and clear why a country should value excellent teaching in its Universities."
Professor Tamara K Hervey, Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Law, The University of Sheffield

Friday 3 November 2017 03:30
"Teaching Excellence is a very important topic these days but sadly, it should have been an important topic many years ago and not just now. As has been alluded to the “rapidly changing environment for teaching (and I would add learning) in higher education” as being the major cause of this new conceived focus on teaching excellence. I firmly believe before we can talk about teaching excellence, we need to firstly define what we mean by it, then decide what will be the tools used to best capture it, and how do we plan to disseminate it. More importantly, how will we ensure what we identify as excellence is actually beneficial to students and how will students be engaged in this process so they too understand the overarching benefits to their learning experiences. Yes interesting debate indeed!!!"
Dr James Martin Wilson, Director, Academic Enhancement Centre, Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China

Friday 3 November 2017 08:27
"This is an important debate and I welcome the opening paper provided by Professor Marshall. The Teaching Excellence Framework has, for its clear limitations, brought a clear metric driven focus upon the quality of learning and teaching. A consequence of this should be that all senior leaders in HEIs look afresh at how academic and professional services staff are recruited, their skill set and how the sector will support on going professional development. As well as looking at graduate attributes for the future we need a new discussion about what it means to be an academic or professional support services in UK higher education”
Professor Malcolm Todd, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Student Experience), University of Derby