Teaching Excellence Framework

Teaching Excellence Framework

 

Introduced in the Higher Education Green Paper in November 2015, the purpose of ‘TEF’ (as it is known) is to provide a framework to assess teaching quality within higher education institutions in the UK.

 

The overarching aims of TEF are to:

  • > Improve/reward teaching excellence
  • > Put teaching on the same level as research
  • > Improve student choice
 

The TEF will assess universities in three areas:

 
  • > Teaching, academic support, lectures, seminars, contact time, placements, on-line learning
  • > Effectiveness of course design, assessment and feedback.
  • > Resources such as libraries, laboratories and work experience
  • > Links between teaching, research and professional practice
  • > How successfully students meet course requirements, lifelong learning skills and the ability to progress into further study/work.
  • > What employment graduates go on to do
 

These will all be measured using three main metrics:

  • > The National Student Survey
  • > Destination of Leavers of Higher Education survey
  • > Non-Continuation Rates.

The National Student Survey (NSS) is a survey of all graduating third year undergraduate students at publicly funded universities in the UK.

 

It asks students questions relating to their learning experience: including overall satisfaction, assessment, feedback, and academic support. Students are given the opportunity to make both positive and negative comments about their learning experience.

 

The fieldwork for NSS takes place from January to April, with students being able to take part via the telephone or online. The results are published in August and made available to institutions. Limited information is made available to prospective students via the Unistats website.

 

The survey is commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and is run by Ipsos MORI.

This is an annual survey of home/EU graduates, six months after they graduate, to find out what kind of employment or further study they have engaged in.

 

It covers home, EU, and international students. Universities have a statutory obligation to undertake the survey as the data is used as a performance indicator by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).  

The survey is run by the institutions themselves; however the data is collated by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)..

 

This information is made available to prospective students via the Unistats website and general sector wide data can be found on the HESA website.

Continuation is whether a student who enrolled on a course in a particular year is still in higher education; either one year after they started for full time students, or two years after they started for part-time students.

 

If a student does not continue, this is known as non-continuation. These statistics are gathered by universities and submitted to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

 

Non-continuation rates are currently used as a performance indicator for universities by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The results can be found on the HESA website.

 

All of this information is submitted to a TEF assessment panel who will award each university either:

 
This means that the teaching “provision is consistently outstanding”.

This means that the teaching “provision is of high quality, and significantly and consistently exceeds the baseline quality threshold expected”.

This means that the teaching “provision is of a base-line standard”.

 

Institutions will be able to use the outcomes in its marketing and the results will also be made available to prospective students through UCAS and the Unistats website.

 

TEFTimes Higher Education have undertaken a mock TEF analysis using solely the metrics. Some caution should be taken with these results, yet they are generally accepted to be a fair representation. Click the image on the left to see a larger view

 

LSE does not do overly well in this process; coming 81st with an overall score of 46. This is mostly because LSE does not perform well in the National Student Survey.

 

This means that there is a strong potential LSE would not achieve a ‘Gold’ ranking and could likely be rated ‘Bronze’. While this would have some bearing on fees, it is more likely that this could cause reputational damage for the School. This is especially true if the marketing aspect of TEF is successful.

 

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of TEF is that it is linked to the increase of tuition fees for home/EU students. Each year, universities will be able to increase their fees by either inflation, or half of inflation, depending on their TEF score.

 

The TEF connection to fees is so it can be used as a mechanism to introduce fee differentiation. This will increase market competition into the higher education sector.

 

Technically, the TEF started in academic year 2016/17; all higher education institutions were awarded a ‘Bronze’ rating and were told that for 2017/18 they could increase their tuition fees by 2.5% (£9,250).

 

TEF year 2 will begin in 2017/18 but institutions will be able to ‘opt in’ to this process. Universities need to have made a decision as to whether they will do so by the 27th January 2017. LSE will make its decision on the 30th November at the Academic Board – the highest academic decision making body in the School.

 

All universities that choose to take part will be able to increase their tuition fees by inflation and any Gold, Silver or Bronze rating will be reputational only. In 2018/29 all institutions will take part in TEF, but fees will be differentiated, if universities get:

 
  • Gold or Silver – fees will increase by inflation
  • Bronze – fees will increase by half of inflation
 

.Bronze is the lowest score that universities can get so in effect all tuition fees will increase by half of inflation. This means that by 2019/20 the Government will have begun to encourage differential fees within the sector.

 

While raising tuition fees by inflation may only mean incremental amounts, future modelling (if inflation is based at 2.5%) has shown that in just a few years tuition fees will rise above £10,000. If inflation increases (the Bank of England predicts inflation may rise to 4%) this could be even higher.

   

LSESU View on TEF

TEF represents the further marketization of higher education; it aims to introduce market competition to a sector that should be based on quality not cost. LSESU believes that education is a public good and are concerned that there could be no end to the increase in tuition fees.

 

There is already a tiered system in higher education with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds more unlikely to attend the most elite institutions, including LSE. We fear that these changes will only increase this disparity and reduce social mobility.

 

The linking of teaching quality and fees is wrong. This will not encourage LSE to improve their teaching because it benefits its students, but rather so that the institution can charge them more. This could lead to LSE focusing their efforts on ‘gaming’ the system rather than focusing on the more nuanced issues affecting quality of teaching at the School.

There are general concerns that the metrics used will result in a simplification of what ‘excellent teaching’ actually is. There are already existing concerns that NSS does not give a fair representation of student satisfaction as it is impossible to ascertain what aspects of their course(s) the student is referring to when answering the questions.

 

As well as this, it is concerning that TEF is so highly focused on the employment destinations of students as there is not necessarily a correlation between good teaching and graduate employment.

 

The Students’ Union believes that employment and destinations should not be allowed to hijack TEF. It also highlights the government agenda that higher education should be used as a means to create economic growth rather than a desire to improve the quality of education. From an LSE perspective it could result in less investment for courses such Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy etc. which do not have clear career pathways.

The only real form of student engagement within the TEF is through NSS, this is problematic as outlined above. However, universities can submit an additional contextual document to provide additional information on why they think their teaching is excellent.

 

But TEF does not require that LSE should consult with students or even the Students’ Union, and there is no separate student submission. This is problematic as students, the main beneficiary of excellent teaching, are ignored by the process which is supposed to measure their opinions.

 

As well as this LSESU opposes the linking of teaching quality and fees is wrong as we believe that this will not actively encourage LSE to improve their teaching because it benefits its students; but rather so that the School can charge them more. This could lead to LSE focusing their efforts on ‘gaming’ the system, or concentrating their efforts on improving their scores in NSS rather than ‘actually’ focusing on the more nuanced issues affecting the quality of teaching at the School.