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Our teaching excellence – and why we don't feature in the Teaching Excellence Framework results


Dr Barbara Pittam, Registrar and Director of Academic Services at the ICR, explains why as a postgraduate research institute, we do not feature in recent rankings of University teaching excellence – despite our world-leading teaching environment.

Posted on 07 July, 2017 by Barbara Pittam

Group of graduating students

We are part-way through our first ever Teaching Week here at the Institute of Cancer Research – a celebration of our status as a global leader in cancer research, education and training.

A range of communication activities is highlighting our work to educate the brightest and best students, in order to develop the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians.

We are recognised as a world-leading teaching environment, with our graduates making a huge contribution to public good through the impact of their research both here at the ICR and later in their careers.

So why don’t we feature in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – a new scheme for recognising excellent teaching?

The Teaching Excellence Framework

The TEF – which provides information to help prospective students choose where to study – was recently added to the mix of existing national quality requirements for universities, colleges and other higher education providers.

It was developed by the Department for Education in England, with individual education providers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also able to take part.

But the awards cover only undergraduate teaching.

The ICR is a specialist postgraduate higher education institution and a college of the University of London. Since the ICR only has postgraduate students, we were not able to participate in the TEF.

However, the excellence of our teaching has been recognised recently by the award of institution-specific funding by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the public body which funds higher education in England.

This award by HEFCE – given to only a small number of higher education institutions – recognises the higher cost and distinctive nature of specialist higher education providers with global impact, like the ICR, and the public value that these institutions bring to the sector. It is also a powerful vindication of the strength of our teaching.

Find out more about our world-class teaching opportunities by looking at our other Teaching Week content which features news items, blog posts and videos.

Read more

Connecting education and research

In its assessment, the expert panel convened by HEFCE specifically recognised that we had provided a compelling case that education and research were a connected continuum at the ICR.

It also recognised that the ICR's collaboration with a world-leading cancer care provider – our partner hospital The Royal Marsden – gave the critical mass and expertise required for us to be operating at the very highest level for the discipline.

And it recognised the world-leading environment of the ICR and its partner organisation.

Of course in 2014, we also retained the top spot in the Times Higher Education league table, based on our performance in the Research Excellence Framework that year (REF2014). This definitive ranking places us as the top-rated research institute in the UK for the impact of our research on society, as well as overall research quality.

Our teaching strategy

We have a long track record in offering MPhil/PhD and MD opportunities across the whole range of our research. More recently we have begun to offer taught degrees that provide specialist clinicians with a good understanding of cancer science and research, including our MSc in Oncology.

Looking to the future, our Learning and Teaching strategy 2016-21 sets our priorities and principles for education and training at the ICR. It guides us as we continue to play a vital role in securing the capacity and quality of the future global cancer research community.

The strategy is structured around three pillars of activity:

  • providing world-class research degree programmes
  • teaching tomorrow's leaders today's discoveries
  • partnering with our peers and the public

Our work in each of these three strategic pillars is reinforced by high standards in each of our three foundation areas: environment and infrastructure, quality assurance and equality and diversity.

It also dovetails with the ICR's research and operational strategies, as we work together towards our mission of making the discoveries that defeat cancer.

View the full learning and teaching strategy

Shaping society for good

Our students here at the ICR play a critical role in our successes – working as vital members of our research teams, and making an immense contribution to our scientific discoveries.

They go on to shape society for good, embedding our expertise throughout science and medicine across the UK and the world.



Teaching Week
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