The higher education White Paper, published yesterday, provided more information on the government’s proposals for higher education in England. In particular, it included further detail on proposals for a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), intended to give prospective students more information about the teaching they will receive on courses, and to incentivise excellent teaching.
To date, the TEF proposal has encouraged a sector-wide conversation about teaching and learning and has the potential to make a positive, long term contribution to practice. For this to happen, however, it is essential that the assessment framework supports a constructive conversation, rather than trying to create a hierarchy within higher education providers.
There are a number of areas where the White Paper has responded to the university sector’s concerns. The TEF will comprise three, rather than four levels, and for TEF 2, inflationary fee increases will be linked to baseline expectations. We also welcome the fact that the government is approaching TEF 2 as a ‘trial’ and will build in evaluation before subsequent iterations. A TEF 2 awards will be in place for 2017/18 admissions cycle – with the associated fee increase from 2018/19 – and would last for three years.
Subject to lessons learned, the White Paper also sets out proposals for TEF 3 to inform the 2018/19 admissions cycle (entering 2019/20). TEF 3 would split the fee increase with 50% of inflation for the baseline award and 100% for the upper levels. Notably, under this approach, prior increases would not be ‘banked’, opening up potential for reductions in fees which will need close scrutiny, given the potential for destabilisation. There is also a proposal to conduct discipline-level pilots.
The technical consultation represents an evolution of the broad assessment framework set out in the Green Paper. Assessments will be based on a combination of a core set of quantitative outcome metrics, allied to supporting evidence provided by the institution. There is the addition of commendation categories for different areas of practice. There is also further detail on judgement criteria, types of supporting evidence and the panel judgement process.
There are a number of issues and questions set out in the consultation that the sector will want to consider carefully and the document sets out 12 specific questions for feedback.
The technical consultation itself is the main opportunity for the sector to shape the practical implementation of TEF 2. Following the response to the technical consultation in September, the call for applications will be published in October. As a result this consultation should be read with care by any institution considering applying as it sets out the broad assessment framework and types of evidence that will need to be collated as part of a supporting case.
We will also be working with our members to assess the proposals and provide feedback to the consultation.