As a professional new to higher education teaching, the concept of excellence seems daunting and elusive. I had always assumed that excellence, like religious enlightenment, was a goal towards which we all strive, but which was difficult to define, with only an elite handful able to declare that they had attained it. Skelton draws out this slightly spiritual aspect when he describes ‘images of excellent teachers … portrayed as heroic, selfless individuals, with an almost mystical quality, bringing life and light to others’ (pp. 99–100). However, there the similarity ends, for in current policy terminology, excellence is seen to be an imperative for us all. Also, unlike enlightenment, it is conferred by others, so Skelton sets out to examine teaching excellence from the perspective both of those who have been given such recognition and other interested parties.