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The south's winners and losers of new university ranking system

Eight weeks today A-level students will find out if they've got into the universities of their choice.

But in the future the quality of higher education will be judged under a new grading system - the first results of that released today with a few shocks and surprises for universities here in our region.

The new system claims to focus on teaching and - not the quality of research - at the institute. It also puts a fair amount of weight on the students' views.

But it's already proving controversial with claims it's flawed and damaging - as our Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford explains.

The south east's winners and losers of new university ranking system

Eight weeks today A-level students will find out if they've got into the universities of their choice.

But in the future the quality of higher education will be judged under a new grading system - the first results of that released today with a few shocks and surprises for universities here in our region.

The new system claims to focus on teaching and - not the quality of research - at the institute. It also puts a fair amount of weight on the students' views.

But it's already proving controversial with claims it's flawed and damaging - as our Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford explains.

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Four universities celebrate government's "Gold" rating - while two others don't make the grade

Four universities in the Meridian region are celebrating being awarded prestigious 'gold' ratings in the government’s first assessment of teaching excellence in higher education.

The Universities of Oxford, Portsmouth, Kent and Surrey all achieved the highest category for the quality of their teaching and learning.

In contrast the University of Southampton - which is a Russell Group university and has traditionally performed well in university league tables - has been given a bronze, putting it in the bottom quarter:

It is hard to have confidence in a Teaching Excellence Framework which appears devoid of any meaningful assessment of teaching.

I know I am not alone in having deep concerns about its subjective assessment, its lack of transparency, and with different benchmarks for each institution removing any sense of equity and equality of assessment. "

Our own student satisfaction metrics, including satisfaction with teaching, are better than some of those universities who have been awarded Silver and Gold today. This was a pilot scheme and there are serious lessons to be learned if the TEF is to gain public confidence.”

– Sir Christopher Snowden, President and Vice Chancellor of Southampton

It's a double blow for the city of Southampton because its second university - Southampton Solent - which prides itself on its vocational teaching and the employability of its students - was also given a bronze.

A total of 295 universities and colleges took part in the TEF.

59 providers were rated gold, 116 silver and 56 bronze. The performance of universities including student drop out rates, student satisfaction and whether or not students were in graduate level jobs six months after finishing their courses were analysed.

Universities were benchmarked so their outcomes were only compared with similar universities.

The Vice Chancellor of Portsmouth Professor Graham Galbraith said he was delighted with the gold rating - and that judging universities by their teaching was long overdue:

It does seem rather preposterous that we have never had any official government assessment of the quality of teaching before now.

The main purpose of universities is providing education to students. It is a good thing that we are now trying to measure it and I think it will have an impact because it will shuffle universities and resort them in the pecking order."

– Professor Graham Galbraith, ice Chancellor of Portsmouth

Here are the full results for Universities in the Meridian region.

  • University of Oxford - GOLD
  • University of Surrey - GOLD
  • University of Kent - GOLD
  • University of Buckingham (private) - GOLD
  • University of Portsmouth - GOLD
  • Arts University - Bournemouth - GOLD
  • University of Surrey - GOLD
  • Oxford Brookes University - SILVER
  • University of Reading - SILVER
  • University of Winchester - SILVER
  • Bournemouth University - SILVER
  • University of Brighton - SILVER
  • University of Chichester - SILVER
  • University of Sussex - SILVER
  • Canterbury Christchurch University - SILVER
  • Buckinghamshire New University - BRONZE
  • University of Southampton - BRONZE
  • Southampton Solent University- BRONZE

'At 18 I didn't understand implications of my student loan' - 2 years after graduating interest totals £4,000

Calls for more financial education

There are calls for young people to receive more financial education, especially with the high levels of debt some students owe when leaving university - having taken out loans to pay for their £9,000 a year tuition fees.

Nearly half of all young people - now go on to higher education. If Labour or the Greens win the election next month university tuition fees of more than £9,000 will be scrapped.

Other parties propose to restore maintenance grants, waive repayments for teachers who stay in the profession or even just abolish tuition fees for certain subjects. However the reality is that tens of thousands of young people currently leave University with huge debts, of typically more than forty thousand pounds.

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New student halls to ease pressure on city housing

An artist's impression of proposed East Slope redevelopment Credit: University of Sussex

Plans to create more student accommodation at the University of Sussex have been approved by Brighton & Hove City Council.

It means more than two thousand extra bedrooms will be created. They'll replace the existing East Slope housing dating back to the 1970s. It's the first stage of a £500m programme of investment to modernise and improve the campus.

This is an important project for the University so we’re very pleased with this outcome. This means that we will now be able to house more students in University-managed accommodation, which will take away some of the pressure of housing in the city.

We know that many of our former and current students have a great affection for East Slope, and our aim is to provide modern, affordable accommodation that recreates the fantastic social environment.

In considering the redevelopment options, we invited students to tell us what sort of facilities they would like to have in their accommodation and these results were fed into the design and planning process.”

– John Duffy, Registrar, University of Sussex

Universities to be hit by pay dispute

Universities will be affected by industrial action Credit: ITV

Plans for a two-day national strike affecting universities have been confirmed. UCU members in higher education will walk out on the 25th and 26th of May as part of a dispute about pay. They've rejected an offer of 1.1%. University employers describe the decision to take action as "disappointing".

University library to get major overhaul

Reading's library refurbishment plans get green light Credit: University of Reading

The library at Reading University is to get a £40 million redevelopment.

The exterior of the building will be re-clad and replacement windows installed. More space will be created for student study, with new furniture and better wheelchair access.

There will also be better security and increased energy efficiency.

How the new cafe may look Credit: University of Reading

Students celebrate 50 years at Kent university

The University of Kent is celebrating its fifthieth anniversary by bringing a ferris wheel to its Canterbury campus. A special ceremony has taken place to mark the beginning of a year-long programme of commemorative events. We speak to the Vice-Chancellor Keith Mander.

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