Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF)

The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (often referred to as the Teaching Excellence Framework, or TEF) was introduced by the Government in England in June 2016. The framework aims to provide a unified metric which students can use to compare the quality of teaching provision and student outcomes across different higher education institutions. It is intended that this will better inform decision-making about where to study, and so ensure students receive value from their time at university. In addition, it is expected that institutions will use this as an impetus to reflect on and improve their own provision.

The scheme looks at excellence in addition to the UK’s rigorous quality requirements. Institutions can receive one of four awards, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Provisional, where Bronze indicates a meeting a rigourous standard of teaching provision, and Gold indicates consistently outstanding provision. Around 300 institutions currently hold a TEF award. Although initially implemented at an institutional or “provider” level, a pilot of the TEF at subject level has already taken place, with a view to fully implementing this version by 2020.

The TEF is managed by the Office for Students, and participating institutions are assessed by independent panels of experts, students, and academics.

The first TEF results were published in June 2017, and the formula and criteria for assessment are subject to ongoing revision in response to feedback. The TEF has been subject to criticism from various points across the sector, both in terms of how its rankings are calculated and awarded, and in terms of its intrinsic value as an exercise. Despite this, the vast majority of higher education institutions in the UK have made the choice to engage with the framework.

The Framework was designed for universities and colleges in England, but institutions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may choose to participate. Participation is currently voluntary. At present the vast majority of institutions represented in the results are based in England, with 8 Scottish and 5 Welsh Institutions currently holding a TEF Award.

Although initially implemented at an institutional or “provider” level, a pilot of the TEF at subject-level has already taken place, comparing teaching standards across academic disciplines. The current aim is to implement subject-level TEF fully by 2020.

Providing TEF ratings at subject level, in addition to provider level, is intended to be even more useful to applicants. Subject-level TEF ratings will reportedly allow prospective students to assess teaching performance and student outcomes in relation to specific courses when choosing which degree to apply for.

Subject-level TEF is currently being piloted by the Office for Students on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE). As these pilots are testing methods, the ratings they produce will not be published.

Pilot timeframe

  • 2017-18: pilot to test two models of TEF subject ratings.
  • 2018-19: the model used in this pilot round will be informed by the outcomes of the 2017-18 pilot, responses to the DfE consultation and findings from DfE’s student research.

It is intended that from 2020-21 TEF assessment ratings will be published at both subject and provider levels.

Further information on the two pilot models are set out on the OfS website.

Assessments are conducted by a subject panel, and the ratings are decided by this group. Each panel includes representatives from the student body, academia, employers, and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies. The chair of the subject panel for Business and Law is Professor Julia Clarke, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Business and Law), Manchester Metropolitan University. The full list of subject panel members are available here.