Teaching excellence in HE to be assessed every 4 years

A new approach to the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework is proposed in independent review
21st January 2021, 11:11am
Kate Parker

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Teaching excellence in HE to be assessed every 4 years

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/teaching-excellence-he-be-assessed-every-4-years
Higher Education In Fe: Teaching Excellence In He Is To Be Assessed Every Four Years, Says The Dfe

The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework, which measures the quality of higher education providers, will now run every four to five years, the Department for Education has said.

Currently, higher education providers are given a TEF award each year that judges their teaching. The institutions are given rating of gold, silver or bronze, or a provisional award if there is not enough data for a full assessment. To be considered, the providers must meet demanding national quality requirements.

The decision to change the approach comes in response to Dame Shirley Pearce's independent review of the system, published this morning. 

A public consultation on the TEF ran between January and March 2019.


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In her review, Dame Shirley says the primary purpose of the TEF should be to identify excellence and encourage enhancement, and that the structure of the framework needs to change to improve transparency, relevance and robustness.

She adds that educational gains should be articulated and assessed, and that graduate outcome metrics should be broader and control for region of employment. The submission process should have a standard structure and enable the student body to contribute independently.

Dame Shirley argues that statistical improvements are needed to address process concerns, and that a subject-level exercise should be incorporated into the provider-level assessment and inform provider-level ratings.

In its response to the review, the Department for Education says it wants the Office for Students to "develop a revised and invigorated provider-level TEF" that contributes to driving improvements in all higher education provision and supports excellent outcomes for all our students. 

It says that this TEF would be "underpinned by the principles of transparency, relevancy, robustness" - all of which Dame Shirley proposed - alongside and an additional principle of proportionality.

The response adds: "We also recognise that many providers have felt that too much burden was imposed upon them under the TEF, and we will want the OfS to ensure that, when implementing a revised TEF, they minimise the administrative burden on providers." 

UCU: TEF should be scrapped

But UCU general secretary Jo Grady said she was disappointed that the government was pushing ahead with the TEF.

"Everybody agrees that teaching, alongside high-quality research, should be at the heart of higher education, and our high standards are one of the reasons so many overseas students continue to choose to study here," she said. "The TEF's metrics were already an extremely poor proxy for quality but will be of even less use in light of the impact of Covid on employment and student feedback. 

'We have consistently called for the TEF to be scrapped, but the need to do so is more urgent than ever, given the current pandemic. Many staff are already facing burnout and heightened stress and don't need more pointless box-ticking bureaucracy."

Office for Students: 'The TEF plays an important role'

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said that the OfS will produce its own proposals on how best to take forward the independent review recommendations and government response. 

'Students invest a significant amount of time and money in higher education and should expect a high-quality academic experience," she said. "The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) plays an important role in driving up the quality of provision in universities and colleges - we welcome the publication of Dame Shirley Pearce's review and the recommendations she has identified for developing the scheme further.

"We are committed to raising the bar on quality and standards across the English higher education system. As we refine our overall approach to regulation, the TEF will continue to incentivise improvement in areas that students care deeply about: the quality of teaching and learning, and how well their courses set them up for success after their studies.

"We will develop proposals on how best to take forward the independent review recommendations and the government response to these, as well as evidence from our own subject-level pilots. We expect to consult on proposals for the future TEF in the spring, aligned to more detailed proposals on how we regulate quality and standards through conditions of registration.'

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