Oxford rebuked for complacency

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The Independent Online
OXFORD University was criticised for its complacency, although that word was not used. The auditors said that the great research university should pay more attention to monitoring the effectiveness of its teaching.

The university told the auditors that it could judge the effectiveness of its teaching in two ways: the performance of undergraduates at examinations and the fierce competition between colleges to get the best students.

The auditors pointed out that as Oxford can select very bright students who promise a high standard of achievement and can itself determine the standards used to assess those students, 'a causal relationship between teaching quality and examination results is difficult to establish.' Or, you may have the best students, but do you teach them well?

They said they found it 'surprising' that the university had not shown much interest in evaluating its teaching method.

In a lofty summary they say: 'In so far as any consideration had been given to the structure of its teaching, it seemed to have resulted principally (although not entirely) from a wish on the part of members of the academic staff to have the burden of teaching reduced, so as to provide more time for the pursuit of research and supervision of graduate students.

'The university may wish to consider whether it should seek to develop a wider and more active interest amongst its academic staff in matters related to the teaching and learning of students.'

However, just in case they had gone too far and not sufficiently doffed their caps to a renowned university, they added that Oxford dons showed an impressive level of commitment to students' academic and personal well-being.