The results of the UK’s newly introduced Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) are still being digested by many across the sector, with some surprise ratings causing waves amongst the 295 institutions which took part for the first time. The framework will be used as the basis for future fee rises, (tripled to £9000 five years ago) with all institutions rated bronze or higher being allowed to increase their fees in line with inflation for the 2018/19 academic year.
For some it was a very positive result, but the wider implications of these results are still being considered.
One area that performed very well are the 13 specialist institutions that comprise the United Kingdom Arts and Design Institutions Association (UKADIA), with seven awarded gold, five silver and one bronze. According to an article in wonkhe.com there are recurring themes that have helped deliver these results, such as employer collaboration i.e. working with teacher practitioners keeping them involved through the design and delivery of courses; high student retention through a collaborative approach; regular engagement across all areas of student, teaching and course development. This positive result is great news, but there are other pressures and the seeming downgrading of creative subjects in UK education will prove a significant challenge for the sector despite this very strong performance in TEF results.
In a potentially more surprising outcome, the FT reported that ‘many more than half the UK’s elite Russell Group universities have failed to achieve the highest award in the first government league table based on the quality of teaching’. Nick Hillman, a former government special adviser on universities and now director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank said this would cause upset. He states that TEF ‘would have comprehensively failed if it had simply replicated existing hierarchies….the fact that some of the results seem surprising suggests it is working.”
According to Professor Andrew McRae from Exeter University, TEF is ‘the best option’, and that while he sees it likely to evolve and change, it should not be brushed aside and must be embraced as ‘focusing on proxies of teaching quality remains the only feasible method’.
The impacts from the international market are yet to be seen. Findings from Hobsons’ International Student Survey 2017 shows that over a fifth of prospective students surveyed said a gold TEF rating is the best way to assess the quality of higher education in the UK, with teaching quality as the top priority among those considering a UK university to study in.