7 December 2021
by Paul Ashwin

What’s the future for the TEF – and how might we shape it?

A laser-like focus on enhancement would improve the TEF dramatically, argues Paul Ashwin

As we head towards an Office for Students (OfS) consultation on it, it is probably worth taking stock of where we are, how we got here and where we might go with the Teaching Excellence (and Outcomes) Framework (TEF).

For those just joining us, it is probably most helpful to start with how we got to where we are. In January 2021, the excellent independent review of the TEF was laid before parliament.

It provided an elegant and coherent plan for the future of the TEF and was met by a Department for Education (DfE) response that, as I argued at the time, felt “like a piece of homework that DfE forgot and had to cobble together on the bus while chatting to their mates”.

In July 2021, OfS published an update that did an impressive job of finding a workable middle course between the Pearce Review and the DFE response and was clearly trying to make the best of a difficult situation. Great credit should go to OfS for this approach.

We are where we are
The approach indicated by OfS is that the TEF will be an institutionally focused exercise that will focus on enhancement. The outcomes will be based on assessing a mixture of provider and student submissions and metrics. More weight will be given to the provider and student submissions than before.

This is good news but before we relax, we need to be very careful to clearly establish the basis on which teaching excellence will be assessed in the submissions. There was some evidence that more prestigious universities were more likely to be upgraded in the first round of the TEF based on their institutional submission, suggesting that this prestige can be effectively mobilised as a substitute for excellence.

You can read the full blog on the WonkHE site here.