Only a third of students applying to a higher education course were aware of the Teaching Excellence Framework and Student Outcomes Framework and had some knowledge of what it entailed, according to a new report.
Of those applicants, however, only half recalled the award their first choice HE provider actually received.
The TEF was first introduced in 2017 and assesses universities and colleges offering higher education based on metrics of graduate employment, student retention and student satisfaction.
Few use TEF to help application decisions
In its first year, of the 106 further education colleges in the TEF, 14 achieved gold status, 46 were rated silver and 31 bronze, while 15 received a “provisional” rating. In 2018, 46 more colleges were recognised.
According to the research report Evaluation of provider-level TEF 2016-17 (Year 2) – measuring the initial impact of the TEF on the higher education landscape, published today, 15 per cent of all applicants made use of the TEF to help them in their decision-making process during application. Among those who said they were aware of TEF at the time of applying, that number rose to 34 per cent.
Just over a quarter of applicants who were aware of TEF at the time of application and aware of the TEF award of any of their chosen providers made a change to their application as a result of this knowledge.
Emphasis on student outcomes
The report considered responses from 311 TEF and academic contacts across 195 HE providers, as well as 2,838 online survey responses from individuals who had submitted an application for an undergraduate HE course starting in 2018 or 2019.
At the institution level, the report found the TEF had a significant impact on some aspects of provision. “TEF contacts reported a relatively high amount of change in the last two years relating to the student experience, believing much of this was due – at least in part – to the TEF,” the report said.
“In particular, TEF contacts reported that the TEF had contributed to an increased emphasis on student outcomes in the last two years (37 per cent) and 29 per cent noted that the TEF had contributed to an increased emphasis on teaching quality and the learning environment.” That number rose to 45 per cent among the academic contacts questioned.
The report also found a “considerable amount of change in student employability over the last two years”, with respondents attributing some of this change to the TEF. “The most common impact attributed (at least in part) to the TEF was an increase in student exposure to employability opportunities (21 per cent).”
The report comes as the government today launched a consultation into the framework as part of an independent review.