Universities Minister Sam Gyimah, launching a tool to rate universities by subject which will be trialled at four sites in Yorkshire, says it will enable teaching excellence to be rewarded while exposing that of poorer quality.
By extending the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) to subject level, he said, prospective students can compare courses at different universities.
It would rate subjects as either gold, silver or bronze, he said, giving students a better understanding of the learning environment and potential graduate outcomes.
“Prospective students deserve to know which courses deliver great teaching and great outcomes – and which ones are lagging behind,” said My Gyimah.
“In the age of the student, universities will no longer be able to hide if their teaching quality is not up to the world-class standard that we expect.
“The new subject-level TEF will give students more information than ever before, allowing them to drill down and compare universities by subject.
“This will level the international playing field to help applicants make better choices, and ensure that more students get the value for money they deserve from higher education.”
The Department for Education is today launching a 10-week consultation into the design of the new framework, which will run alongside a pilot scheme at 50 universities and colleges.
Among those taking part are the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, De Montfort University and the Open University.
In Yorkshire, the University of Hull, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Trinity University and the University of Bradford are all to participate in the trial.
The move is the next phase of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which assesses universities.
The first awards, which were decided by an independent panel, were announced last year, with the next round due this summer.
The TEF came in for criticism from a number of top universities when the first ratings were published last June after many leading institutions failed to achieve the highest award.
Concerns were raised that the system did not fully measure quality and that potential students needed clear guidance about what the results meant and how to use them.
Just two universities in Yorkshire had been awarded the top rating, with Leeds and Huddersfield the only ones, out of 27 institutions, to be awarded gold.
A further 16 including Leeds Beckett, York, Sheffield and Bradford, were awarded silver.
The new framework, the DfE says, will allow students to “look beyond” provider-level ratings, taking into account student feedback, drop-out rates and graduate outcomes.
A Department for Education spokesman said the ratings system will allow students to make “consumer-style comparisons of degree courses”, adding, “this will shine a light on poor quality teaching and ensure that standards are drive upwards”.
The subject proposals have been published for consultation, and if introduced, the first ratings would be published in 2020.