Interrogating the discourses of ‘teaching excellence’ in higher education

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Education policies can be understood as discursive strategies often used to foreground political ideologies and shape pedagogic practice. This chapter focuses on the ways in which the notion of ‘teaching excellence’ has received a renewed focus in the context of the introduction of a Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework for higher education in England. The study adopted a hybrid approach to Critical Discourse Analysis to explore the interplay of discourses underpinning teaching excellence in the context of a policy purporting to assess the standard of teaching in higher education. Drawing on the English case, textual data comprised a White Paper and two policy announcements outlining the introduction of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework alongside 22 written submissions to the ‘Assessing Quality in Higher Education’ inquiry. Findings revealed four competing discourses: quality enhancement, quality assurance, widening participation and graduate employability. A disjuncture between policy claims and institutional practice was highlighted, with discursive silences regarding access, participation and employability. It is argued that the performative culture generated by such a policy inadvertently encourages institutions to focus on accountability and reputational concerns at the expense of processes which reflect the broader value of establishing teaching excellence in higher education.




Wilcox, K. (2020). Interrogating the discourses of ‘teaching excellence’ in higher education. European Educational Research Journal, 20(1), 42–58.

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