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More to university than £250m-worth of bricks

The University of Ulster's plans to spend £250m on a new Belfast campus (News, March 2) has been heralded by the great and the good as excellent news. But is it?

You do not judge a university on the basis of how much it plans to spend on new buildings, or how many short-term construction jobs such a move would create.

You judge a university on the basis of how it fares in the area of what universities are set up to do. Central in this respect is the quality of the teaching.

So how does the university stack up? Unfortunately, not so well.

Guardian/Observer 2012 rankings of the teaching in Britain's 119 degree-awarding institutions ranks the university in 88th place, having slipped even further in the last year from an already poor 80th place.

The great and the good talk of our 'two world-class universities'. The Guardian put Queen's at No 50 (up from 55th place), which is better than its local rival, but neither could claim to be a major player in terms of quality of teaching, let alone 'world-class'.

It is time the great and the good got real. If we see having highly educated young people as critical to our economic prospects and to attracting inward investment, then we need to focus on how our universities go about teaching, rather than gasp in awe at their building plans.



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