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Where next for the Teaching Excellence Framework?

Stephanie Harris

Policy Analyst
Universities UK

​The results from the first full year of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) were released in June amid much anticipation and speculation about what the results would mean for the sector.

Today sees the release of Universities UK's report on TEF year 2. It presents a review of outcomes and the results from a survey of Universities UK members on the impact and cost of submission to the exercise. The implications of these findings, as we head towards TEF year 3, subject-level pilots and the anticipated independent review, are also considered in this report.​

Key findings:

  • There appears to be general confidence that the overall process was fair.
  • The TEF produced independent results, partially corroborated by other metrics. The results didn't correlate with institutional characteristics such as student population or research income, but there was a slight correlation with entry tariff and other rankings.
  • Further consideration is needed on how the TEF accounts for the diversity of the student body, particularly part-time students.
  • The estimated cost of participating in the TEF for the 134 higher education institutions was approximately £4 million, driven by the range and intensity of staff involvement, particularly at senior levels.
  • There is widespread belief among survey respondents, with 73% agreeing, that the TEF will raise the profile of teaching and learning. There is also early evidence that the TEF has enhanced engagement with institutional metrics, will reshape internal assurance processes and has influenced teaching and learning strategies.
  • There are genuine concerns about how the assessment framework defines and measures teaching excellence and the viability of subject-level assessment. Only 2% of respondents believed that the TEF accurately assesses teaching and learning excellence and 68% believed that, based on their TEF Year 2 experience, there is no proportionate approach for producing a robust subject-level TEF.

The concerns about how excellence is measured highlight the need to develop metrics that the sector and others believe represent teaching excellence. Learning gain was the favourite choice among respondents to our survey with 65% believing it should be prioritised for development. 43% would prioritise a teaching qualifications measure with much more limited support for the inclusion of Longitudinal Education Outcomes data (27%) and very limited support for a teaching intensity measure (12%). These results are timely as Longitudinal Education Outcomes data is likely to be included in TEF Year 3 as the supplementary metric and a teaching intensity measure is being developed alongside the subject-level pilots.

Key questions raised for the development of subject-level TEF include the impact of increased suppression of metrics and how judgments are made in the absence data, the comparability of subject groupings and the increase in cost and complexity of submissions and assessment.

If the TEF is to gain long-term credibility and become a useful tool for the sector our findings suggest that four aspects of the exercise must be considered. These are the establishment of long-term design principles and future governance arrangements, the phasing of changes to the framework and its relationship with quality assessment.

The next 18 months represent an important period for shaping the future development of the TEF - with the piloting of the subject-level exercise due to commence, announcement of the year three specification imminent and an independent review likely to happen in 18-19. This report suggests that in its first full pilot year the TEF has been embraced by the sector as a fair and robust exercise but that work remains to ensure that it is measuring true aspects of teaching excellence.

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