Universities to go for gold

Overtime reports as plans for a new gold, silver and bronze grading system are announced for university courses.

Sam Gyimah, the universities minister, has announced that University courses will be given a ‘gold, silver or bronze’ rating to help prospective students decide where they want to study. The criteria for the ratings will cover job prospects post-graduation, likely future salaries and course dropout rates.

The introduction of the new grading system aims to allow students to easily compare a particular course across a variety of universities and, by viewing the respective scores, gain a greater insight of the standard of the overall course by using the Department for Education’s (DoE) judgement criteria.

The DoE has suggested the new system would also help to expose poor teaching and help students receive greater value for money as tuition fees rise.

Gyimah said: “The change will ensure students get the value for money that they deserve from higher education. Prospective students deserve to know which courses deliver great teaching and great outcomes – and which ones are lagging.

Sam Gyimah, the universities minister

“In the age of the student, universities will no longer be able to hide if their teaching quality is not up to the world-class standard that we expect.”

The new system is set to be introduced in 2020 and different courses at the same university will be given different ratings. Before the system is introduced, there will be a consultation period in which universities will be able to advise the government on their views.

Currently, university league tables are published by national newspapers and education websites, taking into account similar criteria to that likely to be used by the government. However, there are concerns over whether the criteria being used will accurately represent the standard of the course. The University of Brighton currently has a ‘silver’ rating under the Teaching Excellence Framework.


We asked students up and down the country for their views:

Harry Medway, University of Swansea Law

A three-tier rating system for courses is likely to  encourage potential students to disregard studying what they may truly enjoy and pursue a degree which they may not based on the likelihood of post-graduation employment. It appears unnecessary to place labels on degrees that essentially say one is better than the other. It may also lead to overcrowding of certain university courses in the long run, which may in turn make employment harder and therefore contradict the criteria used to give the course its initial rating.

Noemin Griskeviciute, University of Glasgow Russian/English Literature

This new system is something that should not be introduced. The concept is somewhat childish as it will in a way ruin some subjects. All subjects have their value and use in this world and should not be graded in such a way. I think it would also put people off studying degrees that are rated as bronze, thus harming the people already working in that specific subject industry. Even worse than that, however, it could even cause the degree to be dropped from a number of universities altogether.

Robert Neale, University of Warwick Management

In an age where students are paying over £30,000 for their education, having a system that reflects the actual value for money in terms of their education can only be a positive thing. It will motivate schools to focus more on students without compromising the quality of their research too much. While it might have been acceptable 25 years ago, when university tuition fees did not exist, to have a limited focus on undergraduates, fees are becoming more and more expensive and students deserve to get value for money.

Callum Harrington-Smith, University of Aberystwyth English Literature

I believe the implementation of the new rating system for university courses will have a positive effect on higher education. This is because it will give students greater ability to make an informed decision on what degree they are choosing to study. In addition, it will allow students to hold universities accountable for the quality of teaching on their courses. However, there is also a risk that – depending on the criteria used by the government to assess each university course – that it could possibly not account for the fluctuation in quality if the ratings are not reviewed regularly.

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