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callum perry

undergraduate education
callum.perry@uea.ac.uk

curriculum conversations: what the tef?

It's another week, another curriculum conversation. This week I'm going to breakdown what TEF is for those who don't know.

TEF is also known as the teaching excellence framework, it is a system which assesses the quality of teaching in universities across the UK.  It was introduced back in 2017 to provide prospective students with a resource which judges teaching quality at university. 

It assesses excellence in teaching at universities and colleges, and how well they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study. It considers a variety of metrics including employability, student retention and the NSS scores to build a picture of the quality at the university.  

TEF looks at what they are doing in addition to these standards, and participating universities and colleges can achieve a gold, silver, bronze, or provisional rating. 

TEF GOLD: A provider is awarded gold for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It’s of the highest quality found in the UK. 

TEF SILVER: A provider is awarded silver for delivering high quality teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It consistently exceeds rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education. 

TEF BRONZE: A provider is awarded bronze for delivering teaching, learning and outcomes for its students that meet rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education. 

Ironically, it doesn’t measure much to do with teaching. Further, TEF is rather misleading because universities are rated against themselves rather than each other. From a student perspective, they may be led to think universities are ranked against each other but with TEF, this isn't the case.  

If you didn’t think it could get any more complex, subject TEF has just been announced as a new feature. This looks at the same rankings of the university level TEF but at a school-by-school level.  

For example, a university could be gold level TEF, but the specific school and course you’re interested in could be bronze. This means that the university is gold overall, but the school you want is not at the same standard; meaning understanding the benchmark can be tricky.  

Students invest significant amounts of time and money in higher education, they should expect a high-quality academic experience. The TEF should measures the things students care about: teaching, learning and student outcomes but whilst trying to do this it simply fuels the marketised aspects of students applying to university.  

Whilst on the surface, the TEF aims to measure the quality of teaching and learning, both at institutional and subject level, but it can be argued that it only fuels the competitive market and marketisation of higher education. 

In my opinion, it is good for students to know which university has better quality teaching/learning but it is incredibly subjective.  

What we need is a reflective and transparent process, where universities are scored by students on quality of both academic and extra-curricular life at university. From this, the university should document how it caters to its unique set of students and how it has overcome issues in relation to student satisfaction.  

It is always good to know which universities are doing well, but each student has their own needs. It is hard to compare two universities for two different students. But they can showcase what they do well and provides information for students to make an informed decision of where to invest their money.  

What would your idea be for university rankings or TEF? Why not drop me an email or if you have questions and we can chat or even have a cup of coffee? I do love a chit-chat over a cappuccino.  

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