24 June 2017
The publication of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) rating in the UK has caused surprise and consternation in many universities and higher education providers.
The exercise was carried out by the Higher Education Funding Council for England although it did include some universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Participation was voluntary although the results will be used to decide whether providers can raise their tuition fees. Results were benchmarked against the characteristics of the student intake.
The framework is an attempt to evaluate universities according to teaching quality rather than research output. There are six criteria, teaching quality, assessment and feedback, academic support, non-continuation, employment or further study, and highly skilled employment or further study. The first three are based on the National Student Survey and the others are derived from data provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the Individualised Learner Record, and Destination of Leavers from Higher Education.
Universities and other providers of higher education are categorized into three groups, Gold, meaning “provision is consistently outstanding and of the highest quality found in the UK Higher Education sector”, Silver, indicating “provision is of high quality, and significantly and consistently exceeds the baseline quality threshold expected of UK Higher Education”, and Bronze, awarded where “provision is of satisfactory quality.”
The gold category included some smaller specialised schools and those institutions not known for their research prowess such as Blackpool and the Fylde College, Cleveland College of Art and Design, Norwich University of the Arts and the University of Huddersfield.
Meanwhile three members of the prestigious Russell Group, the University of Southampton, the London School of Economics and the University of Liverpool were awarded bronze medals. This was particularly galling for the latter since the less highly regarded Liverpool Hope University and Liverpool John Moores University won gold and silver respectively.
It is noticeable that reputable London universities did not do as well as they do in global rankings, partly because of poor ratings for student satisfaction. Imperial College was exceptional in winning a gold medal while King’s College, University College and Queen Mary University of London had to settle for silver.