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Moving beyond teaching excellence: Developing a different narrative for England’s higher education sector

Phil Wood (Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln, UK)
Matt O’Leary (Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)

International Journal of Comparative Education and Development

ISSN: 2396-7404

Article publication date: 7 January 2019

Issue publication date: 3 May 2019




Teaching excellence remains a contested term in English higher education (HE). This paper begins by reflecting on its complex and sometimes blurred meaning, charting the divergence between academic interests in the complexity and contextual questions relating to practice development and organisational and sectoral shifts which have been driven by managerialism, accountability and “top-down” ideas of change. The authors argue that this divergence, epitomised in the development of the teaching excellence framework, has led to a confused, if ubiquitous, use of excellence to identify organisational and sector-led ideas of what it means to deliver quality teaching. However, these frameworks have become progressively detached from the complexity of practice investigated by those interested in pedagogy. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


This is a conceptual paper which brings together literature from teaching excellence, organisational science, time and HE to develop an alternative approach to pedagogic development.


Based on a critique of the current, confused conceptualisation of teaching excellence, the authors offer a different narrative which demonstrates how a reconsideration of the factors is important in developing critical and challenging teaching opportunities. Based on a “bottom-up” system focusing on dialogue, sustainability and “unhasty” time, the authors argue for a re-establishing of a holistic approach in HE providers based on emergent pedagogies as opposed to teaching excellence.


This paper demonstrates why teaching excellence has become conceptually fractured in an English context, and why a new approach to pedagogic development needs to be considered to establish a more positive and critical approach at both the institutional and sectoral levels. This paper outlines a possible approach to developing such renewal.



Wood, P. and O’Leary, M. (2019), "Moving beyond teaching excellence: Developing a different narrative for England’s higher education sector", International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 112-126.



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