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by Emma Petela 21st July, 2017
3 min read

It’s time to care about TEF

As the initial furore following the publication of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results dies down, the topic for debate in the sector has returned to the way higher education is financed. There have been some winners and losers in the TEF to date and the long term impact of this is yet to be felt. Moves by the Universities of LiverpoolSouthamptonDurham and York to appeal their TEF rating suggest that universities are viewing this as something which will have a significant commercial impact on their institution. If we look at the ambitions behind the TEF, this is not surprising.

What is the TEF?

Put simply, the TEF is a system which aims to measure excellence in teaching using six key metrics and a 15-page submission.  Institutions are awarded either a gold, silver or bronze award. From a student perspective, the TEF should act as a simple tool that allows students to identify universities and higher education institutions (HEIs) with the highest teaching quality.

There were no surprises when universities including OxfordCambridgeBirminghamExeterImperial College LondonLeedsNewcastle and Nottingham all received gold awards. However, what caught the media’s attention was the fate of three Russell Group members – the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of Southampton, and the University of Liverpool – all of whom were surprisingly given the lowest award of a bronze rating. By contrast, universities such as Bangor University and Coventry University, appeared to exceed expectations by receiving gold awards.

Why is the TEF important?

The TEF aims to counter the perhaps correct assumption that research has historically been more of a priority to universities and HEIs than teaching quality. Acting as a counterpart to the research excellence framework (REF) therefore, the TEF may influence student choice over which provider they choose to attend in future. Should the Government get its way in allowing institutions to link TEF scores with tuition fee rates, the importance of the TEF becomes even greater.

It is also possible that the value of TEF will be increased even further in future. Prior to the last general election, for example, there were (unconfirmed) rumours in the sector that TEF could in future be linked to an institutions ability to recruit international students; although these rumours have since died down.

What has been confirmed is that the Department for Education will press ahead with a pilot for TEF subject-level ratings. The aim of this is to help realise the ambition of providing students with the ability to judge an institution based on the subject rather than the institution as a whole. Just how this will pan out is unclear, but the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Department for Education will work with 30-40 providers from across the UK Higher Education sector to evolve the design of subject-level TEF throughout the pilots.

What is evident is that for those providers who offer tertiary education, securing a high rating at institution and potentially subject level will become increasingly important for the long term success of a University or HEI.

GK are experts in higher education policy and work with universities and HEIs to understand and navigate the ever evolving policy environment. If you would like to discuss this further with one of our consultants please contact Emma Petela on emma@gkstrategy.com.

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