Response to the Teaching Excellence Framework Technical Consultation

Following a consultation with our members, we have submitted a formal response to the Teaching Excellence Framework Technical Consultation.

You can download our response here.

We recorded the support of members in promoting the importance of teaching, while also cautioning on the reliance of league tables based on subjective ‘data’.

We said that our members are largely supportive of the proposed TEF assessment criteria, however we cautioned that extreme care be taken in relying on student satisfaction to determine the quality of teaching. The evidence from the NSS indicates that there is a subject effect on reported levels of student satisfaction and this must be addressed, for example, by weighting of subject coverage when calculating institutional level measures. Furthermore, research shows bias amongst students based on the gender and/or ethnicity of their teachers; this should be acknowledged. 

There is a further issue with NSS data in that students evaluate against their own expectations. They cannot possibly be comparing to similar courses in other institutions because they have no experience of what happens elsewhere. Effectively there is no benchmark or baseline against which these responses are referenced. Therefore it is difficult to use the outputs as a method of ranking institutions. 

We highlighted that attention be paid to different models of course delivery when using the metrics, for example, non-completion rates. In some institutions students are given the option of taking the same course over a two year intensive or traditional three year period. If part way through they choose to switch delivery method they are deemed to have withdrawn from one course and started a new course. This is clearly not the case, but non-completion statistics would record it as such. This penalises institutions that offer greater flexibility to students. Given the policy intention of enabling students to transfer easily between institutions based on their individual circumstances we suggested that it might be preferable to look at continuation rates to the next level as well as or instead of to the next level on the same programme. 

We also suggested using a measure of ‘learning gain’, as it is commonly understood. This would reflect the value added of the teaching and give some reassurances that widening participation will not be deemed to drag down TEF results. Business Schools will be able to offer valuable input into the discussions around measuring learning gain as many have implemented measures around assurance of learning as part of their accreditation processes. 

Finally, we recorded that some of our members would like to see a measure of the proportion of ‘teachers’ with teaching qualifications such as the fellowship of the HEA as a sign of the seriousness with which the institution and the individual take their teaching responsibilities. This shows institutional commitment to teaching and learning development.

Thank you to those members who fed into our response. We would also like to make members aware that we have responded to the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education consultation and to HEFCE's consultation on 'Funding to Support Teaching in Higher Education'.