New Report on Teaching Excellence Framework

Posted on January 14th, 2016 by Carl Jackson

The Government’s proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) could further enshrine the values of market in university education without necessarily improving the standard of teaching, according to a new report by the Crick Centre.

Dr Joshua Forstenzer, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow for the Public Value of Higher Education, examined the proposed TEF, recommended in the latest Green Paper on Higher Education, which aims to rebalance ‘the relationship between teaching and research’ in universities and to put ‘teaching at the heart of the system’. This would involve introducing a teaching quality assessment mechanism using core metrics and qualitative evidence.

In exchange, universities deemed to have ‘excellent’ teaching will be rewarded with the right to increase undergraduate fees in line with inflation.


Our report addresses three main criticisms of the TEF – that it is not really about teaching excellence, but fees; it does not serve students but an imagined wider group of employers; and that it ignores the wider public benefits of undergraduate education.

It recommends:

  • The issue of fees should be entirely disentangled from the TEF, because the proposed connection would amount to lifting the cap on fees by stealth and would erode the confidence of students and academic staff in the wider goal of rebalancing teaching and research priorities.
  • Assessment of graduate progression should include a wider definition of valuable and productive employment, beyond simply an assessment based on salary ‐ a measurement notoriously uneven across sectors and which ignores the equally profound impact on future earnings of social class, networks, access to placements, and most crucially, financial support to undertake internships and offset the costs of working and living in London.
  • The TEF ought to reflect higher education’s full range of social purposes. To that end, the White Paper and the technical consultation on metrics should expand on the brief set out in the Green Paper to ensure that TEF metrics and panel guidance reflect all of these social purposes.
  • Decision‐makers should consider that the simplest method to achieve a rebalancing of teaching and research is not the introduction of a TEF, but rather the abandonment of the REF coupled with the improved student representation of student interests in the broadest sense, first but not exclusively by students themselves.

To read the full report, click here.


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