Pressures to enhance the quality of university teaching have led to increased emphasis on recognising and rewarding good teaching practice in England. Institutional awards for teaching excellence have grown in response to this agenda. This paper is based on a project that investigates the teaching experience of Teaching Excellence Award winners at a post‐1992 university in England. It draws predominantly on interviews with these Award winners and their students, exploring their varied conceptions of ‘quality’ and ‘quality enhancement’. The research reveals that most of the Award winners associated the concept of quality with transformative learning. However, students, while recognising the concept, defined quality in more instrumental terms. They tended to relate quality to academic teaching practice and its impact on their learning outcomes, rather than their own learning experience.