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Government must not rush University Teaching Excellence Framework, say MPs

29 February 2016

A poorly designed or rushed new Teaching Excellence Framework for universities would risk damaging the UK’s outstanding international reputation in higher education, warns the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee in its report, The Teaching Excellence Framework: Assessing quality in Higher Education.

The Committee supports the Universities Minister’s desire to improve teaching quality at universities, widen participation, and increase the focus on graduate employability but the Committee’s report recognises genuine concerns about the implementation of the new teaching framework and the pace of its introduction.

Chair's comment

Iain Wright MP, Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee said:

"UK Universities have an outstanding international reputation and the Higher Education sector is an area where the UK is a genuine world leader. It’s vital that we capitalise on these strengths and not put the world-class status of our universities at risk by pushing ahead with a poorly implemented or rushed teaching excellence framework. It’s better to get this major reform right than to get there quickly. The Government’s forthcoming consultation offers the ideal opportunity for the Minister to respond to these concerns and set out a detailed policy on assessing quality in higher education and a comprehensive road map for its implementation."

In November 2015, the Government published its Higher Education Green Paper, ‘Fulfilling our potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’. This stated that its "core aims are to raise teaching standards, provide greater focus on graduate employability, widen participation in higher education, and open up the sectors to new high quality entrants".  Among other measures, the Green Paper contained proposals to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Metrics

The Government proposed a TEF assessment based on metrics in three areas: employment/graduate destination, retention, and student satisfaction. The Committee found while there was broad support from universities for the principles of the TEF, there were widespread concerns about how well these metrics might work in practice. The Committee heard concerns about metrics in each area including the suggestion that improved scores could be achieved by making courses less demanding or by reducing the intake of students who were less likely to succeed.

Iain Wright MP, Chair, said:

"UK universities operate in an increasingly competitive and global market, where students rightly demand a rigorous and high quality experience for their considerable personal investment. It is therefore right there should be a stronger focus on teaching quality via the Teaching Excellence Framework. We urge universities to engage constructively with the consultation on TEF and help to ensure robust and reliable metrics for a framework which delivers for students, taxpayers, and the HE sector."

Tuition fees

The Committee’s inquiry looked at the proposed link between TEF and the ability for universities to increase their tuition fees. The Committee agrees the proposals for the first iteration of the TEF (TEF 1) are helpful to ensuring minimum standards of teaching quality before any tuition fee rises. However, the Committee recommends that the next, more sophisticated, stage of the TEF (TEF 2) envisaged by the Green Paper should only be introduced once Government can demonstrate that the metrics to be used have the confidence of students and universities. The TEF 1 rating is due to be announced in time for 2017-18 introduction with the TEF 2 ratings due for 2018-19 introduction.

Further information

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