by Paul Ashwin

Why Augar’s confusion provides a clear sense of where the TEF should go in the future

As we await the outcomes of Dame Shirley Pearce’s review of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), it is worth reflecting on what Sir Philip Augar’s Post 18 Review of Education and Funding tells us about the possible future of the TEF.

In doing so, it is first worth considering four challenges faced by the TEF that have informed the Pearce review.

1. The current four purposes of the TEF (informing the choice of university applicants; raising the esteem of teaching; recognising and rewarding excellent teaching; and ensuring that higher education better meets the needs of employers) appear to be in tension with each other.

2. The costs of running the TEF are seen to be too high. For example the UUK estimate that if the subject TEF was rolled out across the sector then it would cost around £40 million compared to £25 million for the institutional TEF.

3. Despite these costs, these versions of the TEF provide information at the institutional or subject level rather than the particular degree programmes that applicants are choosing between. This is particularly problematic because the quality of teaching is determined at the programme level rather than at subject or institutional level.

4. There have been sustained criticisms of the TEF metrics, particularly the dominance of employment measures given that there is no evidence that employment outcomes are related to the quality of teaching. Finally, the indications from the DfE’s TEF evaluation is that applicants mistakenly believe that the TEF involves inspections of teaching, which suggests they might not trust the TEF if they better understood the basis on which the awards are given.

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