TEF accepted in principle but will it work?


The Teaching Excellence Framework has had its first major public airing with nearly 200 business school leaders discussing the Government's proposals at the Chartered Association of Business Schools' annual conference, in Manchester.

In a high-level conference session the TEF was broadly welcomed as a means to demonstrate the importance and value of teaching and learning in an increasingly consumerised market driven by students and the tuition fees they pay. But when surveyed 43% of delegates said the TEF won’t be successful.

There were some mixed views on how it will be implemented. Discussion focused on whether university teaching should be professionalised as a consequence; the viable and varied metrics for assessing teaching quality; and whether gamification by providers could be avoided. There was absolute consensus that the process should be as streamlined as possible to avoid costly, burdensome, top-down regulation that the formation of a body such as Ofsted may lead to.

Delegates, when surveyed, thought the most important metrics for quality assessment would be student satisfaction, value add metrics, and graduate employment rates.

Professor Georgina Andrews, Head of Business and Management, School of Society, Enterprise and Environment, Bath Spa University and a Council member of the Chartered Association of Business Schools, welcomed the Green Paper proposals and raised some concerns: “We welcome the rebalancing of the value attached to teaching, which has historically been a poor relation to research. The adoption of a basket of metrics supported by qualitative evidence is also welcome, however only three metrics have been identified so far, so we look forward to working as a sector to provide our views to government on additional measures.

“We also have a number of concerns - First, the proposed link between the TEF and the ability to charge higher fees is unnecessary. It will drive up fees, and reinforce the notion that price is an indicator of quality. There is also a danger of TEF becoming a costly bureaucratic exercise, gamified by the sector, as the REF has been. Finally we are concerned that linking TEF to quality assessment review could lead to HEIs becoming risk averse, and raise the stakes of quality assessment review even further."

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: "Teaching is the right issue for the government to address. The government need to prove that the quality of teaching and learning has improved since the higher fees were introduced. We have a brilliant opportunity to shape TEF - it is completely winnable. If we don't like the metrics we need to come up with our own."

Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of University of Buckingham, provoked some debate with a more controversial view that teaching has to be professionalised in order to deliver value for money for students: “The higher education sector has been dominated by the producers, where a heavy focus on research does not provide value for money. The focus has been on ‘higher’ but not on ‘education’. Why do we not respect the consumers of HE by recognising that we should professionalise teaching? It doesn’t need a bureaucratic OFCOM-like system. We need professional inspiring teachers, and we need a self-improving system of assessment led by universities themselves.”

The Chartered ABS will be consulting with members on its formal response to government on the Green Paper in the coming weeks.