University’s decision to participate in Teaching Excellence Framework draws ire

Reetika Subramanian 16 December 2016

In a move touted to push for teaching excellence, the University Council and General Board decided on Monday to participate in Year Two of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF2). The decision comes barely a month after an open letter, condemning the move, was signed and sent out by 443 members of the University.

The TEF calls for an inflation-dependent fee increase up to at least 2021 by linking the funding of teaching (student fees) to teaching quality. Under the terms of TEF2, by spring 2017 institutions will be classed as Gold, Silver, or Bronze, according to teaching excellence, a ranking that will last for three academic years from 2018-21.

Teaching quality will be measured on graduate employment, student retention, and student satisfaction based on the parameters laid out in the National Student Survey. Accordingly, those institutions that receive a Gold or Silver ranking will be allowed to increase fees at the full rate of inflation for all three academic years. Institutions with a Bronze rating will be able to increase at half of the inflation rate in the last two years of TEF2 (2019-21). In the first year of TEF2, however, there will be no differentiation in fees according to ratings, which means that they would be able to raise fees in line with inflation for 2018-19.

In August this year, 51 student unions and the NUS signed an open letter against TEF warning that fees could reach £11,697 by 2025-26 if it were implemented. The letter, which is signed by CUSU, a number of JCR presidents and multiple academics, voiced concerns about TEF2, especially the tuition fee increases and “spurious metrics” for measuring quality.

"We are dismayed and disappointed […] We have a clear and unambiguous mandate to oppose and frustrate the implementation of TEF 2, and that does not stop with the decision made at University Council,” said a statement released by CUSU Council on Thursday.

"With its focus on student satisfaction, an easily manipulable metric, and on employment statistics, largely influenced by socio-economic background, we struggle to see the way in which this Teaching Excellence Framework is a framework for measuring excellent teaching."