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Rationale for the Teaching and Excellence Framework (TEF)

For years it has been suggested that in many higher education institutions (HEIs) teaching has been less valued than research. The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) aims to address this issue and to make teaching and research, in universities and colleges, of equal status and to provide students with better information on teaching standards. 

Introduction of the TEF

A commitment to introduce ‘a framework to recognise universities offering the highest teaching quality’ was included in the Conservative 2015 Election Manifesto and the TEF process was introduced in November 2015 in the higher education Green Paper Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice. [1]

The TEF will encourage high quality teaching by financially rewarding HEIs which are identified as delivering excellent quality teaching. HEIs which are assessed by the TEF process as deemed to be providing high quality teaching will be allowed to increase their fees in line with inflation. 

Implementation of the TEF

The first TEF awards were made in 2016; awards were granted to HEIs with a current quality assessment of meeting, or exceeding the expectations for quality and standards in England. Under this criteria the majority of HEIs in England qualified for an award and most of these providers subsequently announced a tuition fee rise in 2017/18. 

In year two TEF awards will be made on the basis of performance against a set of metrics. During this phase of the process the metrics chosen use currently available data on student satisfaction, retention and employment outcomes.  HEIs will also be able to submit a qualitative submission to support their metrics.  HEIs will be assessed at three levels of award Gold, Silver and Bronze.  Providers which are successful at any level will be able to increase their fees in-line with inflation on top of their previous increase.

From year three onwards the TEF will develop to allow differential fees and subject level fees and ultimately postgraduate courses may be included.

Overtime the TEF will create a complicated system of fee levels which will vary across providers and courses.

Issues with the TEF

The TEF has received support from HEIs, but concerns have been expressed about the reputational impact of the TEF on UK higher education. The linking of the TEF to increased tuition fees and overseas student recruitment has also proved controversial.  Furthermore at a basic level critics have suggested that the use of metrics is not a good proxy for teaching quality and that the TEF may not be a meaningful measure of what is generally considered to be good teaching quality.

[1]     BIS, Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, November 2015, Cm 9141

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