The UK higher education sector’s longstanding commitment to improving and
developing teaching and learning practice has consistently translated
into high levels of student satisfaction and attainment across the sector and
in positive comparisons to our international rivals.
Developing and introducing a new initiative such as the TEF
is a complex exercise. For it to be workable and helpful to students and
university teaching it must be well designed and properly implemented. To
ensure the TEF is effective in achieving this aim, we believe that it should be
developed in line with the following principles. The TEF should:
To support this objective we work with our members, government and sector agencies to shape
the development of the TEF. We also work to inform our members about
developments and the potential implications for their institutions. Our work on
the TEF is led by the Student Policy Network, Chaired by Professor Cliff Allan, Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham City University.
Our response sets out a number of areas that would benefit from further consideration or clarification. In summary, we make the following recommendations.
1. Future iterations of the TEF, including piloting of discipline-level assessments, should not proceed until lessons about the costs and benefits of TEF 2 have been learned.
2. The baseline ‘meets expectations’ award should be relabelled as ‘good quality’.
3. A programme of communications and engagement work should be developed with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK Trade and Investment, the British Council, the UK Higher Education International Unit and the Quality Assurance Agency.
4. The UK Higher Education Public Information Steering Group should lead testing and research to ensure that the TEF makes a valuable contribution to student decision making.
5. The sector, through the assessment panel and the chair, should own the criteria of excellence and associated award judgments.
6. The TEF should use a criteria-based approach to grading, and guidance to the assessment panel should avoid ‘anchoring’ judgements against predetermined distributions.
7. The relative weighting and interpretation of the different components, including the core metrics, contextual evidence and institutional submissions, should be established by the assessment panel and made clear to applicants.
8. The TEF should not attempt to make judgements based on procedural and non-comparable forms of evidence, such as:
9. There should be a process for clarification of institutional submissions prior to judgements or a mechanism for appeals against judgements built into the schedule.
9. The benchmarking methodology used by the TEF should follow the model developed by the UK Performance Indicators.
11. The relationship and delineation between the evolving quality assessment system across the UK and the TEF should be kept under review, including:
12. Consideration should also be given to the role of the Higher Education Data Landscape Steering Group to ensure alignment with wider changes in the data landscape that will affect future iterations of the TEF.
13. There should be agreement between the relevant national authorities to ensure a coherent UK-wide approach to the TEF that is responsive to the different national contexts.
14. A full evaluation should be conducted on completion of TEF 2 that includes consideration of the costs and benefits of the exercise and its contribution to student decision making.