HEA’s TEF 2 submission analysis and webinar

This HEA research is an analysis of the narratives taken from the submissions from the first ‘trial’ year published in June 2017, and explores themes that UK universities have identified as being relevant for delivering excellent teaching.

Here you can read the full report, the report infographic, HEA’s response to the report and the press release.

The HEA is hosting a webinar on Thursday 14 December 13:00 (GMT) that will provide highlights from the research. This webinar is free to subscribers.

 

 

Wonkfest 17: revenge of the experts

The first Wonkfest will be held at Ravensbourne College on November 6-7

Wonkfest is for UK higher education professionals: from the policy wonks and planners to comms, marketing and public affairs professionals, academics with an interest in the future (and present) of UK HE and everyone in between. Joining them will be politicians, journalists, civil servants, business leaders and others from civil society with a stake in the future of our universities.

It’s a festival, not a conference, so sessions will run concurrently, food and drink will be available throughout both days and there’ll always be something to do at one of our different stages and areas.

For more information, follow this link.

Jo Johnson announces changes to the TEF

From today’s WonkHE blog:

“Last week a series of important changes to future iterations of the Teaching Excellence Framework were announced by Jo Johnson in his speech at the Universities UK annual conference. The headline change is the halving of the weight allocated to National Student Survey metrics, something which arguably diminishes the role of the student voice in the exercise and relegates the metrics most related to actual ‘teaching’. The relative impact of employment outcomes has increased by adding the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) earnings data as a supplementary metric.

One of TEF’s key strengths, and its strongest advantage over league tables, is the benchmarking process comparing an institution’s performance against students with similar characteristics. This is essentially the tool which allows ‘excellence’ to be recognised wherever it’s found, not just confirming the prestige of the oldest and most research-intensive universities which attract the students with the highest entry tariff. In addition to adding LEO as a supplementary metric, TEF assessors will be told when an institution has scored in the top or bottom 10% of any measure. While used in addition to the core metrics, the inclusion in the process of these absolute measures diminishes the case that TEF adds value to what can be found in league tables and could make the judging process even more subjective.

Tweaks have also been made to find a way of providing NSS scores in cases where the NUS-led boycott meant that some institutions and courses didn’t meet the normal threshold. The message to disappointed boycotters is clear: the government will always find a way to fudge the numbers no matter what you do. There is welcome news for majority part-time providers as a new approach will allow them to supplement their submission with additional data better contextualising their position. This is a change made to encourage the Open University to take part in TEF next time, having sat out the first process.

It doesn’t take the most expert of data wonks to see that these overall changes are likely to benefit London-based institutions through the diminishing role of NSS and the inclusion of salary data. The changes should also benefit some Russell Group institutions which have high absolute scores but are under-performing against the benchmark. As we have seen throughout TEF’s development, there has been a consistent slide away from data to the qualitative elements and the judgement of the panel, something which – as seen in some perverse results from TEF2 – means that those who play the game best will do well, not necessarily those with the most excellent teaching.

Also new for TEF is a measure designed to tackle grade inflation. This may not be surprising to readers of the summer’s newspapers, but it may alarm some in the sector to see in black and white the lack of confidence in institutions’ standards. Future TEFs will reward institutions which are judged to have made efforts to keep a lid on increasing Firsts and Upper Seconds, something at odds with the league tables.”

University of Bedfordshire shortlisted in the CATE awards

HEA announces National Teaching Fellowship Scheme Awards and Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence finalists

 

Fifty-five new National Teaching Fellows (NTFs) are announced by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) today, alongside the fifteen team finalists for the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE).

The CATE recognises outstanding contributions to teaching by teams at higher education providers. The criteria for the CATE award are: excellent practice, teamwork, and the team’s dissemination plan. Teams will need to have shown they are working in collaboration with direct student involvement in their work.

Fifteen institutions have been shortlisted for the award. Six of these institutions will be awarded grants of £15,000 to disseminate their learning. The six teams will be announced at the formal celebration event for all these awards at Church House, Westminster, London, 1 November 2017.

You can read the whole story on the HEA website.

Teaching excellence framework results to be published on 22 June

The results of England’s teaching excellence framework (TEF) will be published on 22 June, it has been confirmed by Madeleine Atkins, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Universities will be informed on 19 June whether they have achieved a gold, silver or bronze award in the TEF, Professor Atkins said.

All other UK funding bodies and the Department for Education will be informed shortly after institutions are made aware of their own result, while a full set of awards will sent to all participating providers under embargo on 21 June.

The TEF results were originally due to be released on 14 June, but this was postponed by HEFCE owing to uncertainty caused by the result of the UK general election.

The framework will rate universities’ teaching as “gold”, “silver” or “bronze”, based on metrics for student satisfaction, retention and graduate employment, and submissions made by institutions.

Some of the UK’s most prestigious universities are expected to be among those rated as bronze, an outcome that could limit their ability to raise tuition fees.

Times Higher Education, June 16th 2017

Brace for the TEF

The WONKHE blog has produced this summary:

The results of the Teaching Excellence Framework (Year 2), which had been due for release in late May, delayed until after the General Election and then again following the election results, will finally be published this Thursday. After all the waiting, we will finally get our hands on the judgements from one of the most significant, and most hotly contested, policy initiatives of recent years.

When the idea was first mooted in the last Conservative manifesto, written by a junior MP by the name of Jo Johnson, few in the higher education sector thought that a TEF would be seen through to implementation. Many expected Labour to lead the government following the 2015 election, or for the idea to be dropped in coalition negotiations that never took place.

At times, this scepticism from some sector leaders about the will to see a TEF through has bordered on denial – so many predictions were confidently made that it would never happen. And not only has TEF survived, it’s also managed to surmount the shifting political sands around it: Brexit, a new Prime Minister, parliamentary opposition, the passage of a Bill, and now another General Election. With Johnson returned, against the predictions of a ‘Jexit’, the future for TEF also now looks more assured.

Despite the political machinations, Jo Johnson’s original vision for the exercise has remained largely intact. Yes, there have been successive delays in tying the outcomes to fee increases, and there will now also be a review of the whole process in 2019 which was mandated by the final tweaks made to the Higher Education and Research Act.

Nonetheless, TEF will be a distinct evaluation of universities’ ‘performance’ for three main reasons:

  1. Unlike almost all higher education rankings and evaluation exercises, research performance will have no bearing on the outcomes.
  2. Unlike other evaluations, students’ entry grades will not be used as a judge of quality.
  3. Unlike other rankings and evaluations, TEF will provide a judgement of relative, rather than absolute, performance through its data benchmarking process.

There are many other features of TEF that make it distinctive from other rankings and evaluations, for example the ‘split’ metrics, which will evaluate the equitability of student outcomes compared to peers from different backgrounds. And crucially (if rather obviously), TEF is a government-backed and branded evaluation giving it extra media credibility. It’s quite possible that this credibility will have some bearing on prospective students’ decision-making.

The current acknowledged hierarchy of universities in the UK, as shaped by newspaper league tables, is primarily based on the linked factors of the age of foundation, research volume and quality, and students’ entry tariff. These are not indicators of teaching quality. For all its faults, TEF will come closer to representing the quality of teaching, learning and student experience at universities than other ranking exercises because it has not included both of these measures. But we should not forget that the definition of ‘teaching’ in TEF is quite a stretch: it is more student experience, or ‘education’ than ‘teaching’, or ‘learning’ for that matter.

Expectation management

Most universities’ will already know the outcome of the exercise based on the benchmarked data supplied to them in advance of making their submissions. Some are likely to be nudged up from Bronze to Silver, and Silver to Gold based on the provider submissions and the TEF panel’s largesse. From the data we know, it is expected that several prestigious universities will find themselves with Bronze ratings. On the flipside, some modern universities not used to topping traditional league tables are expected to perform very strongly and obtain Gold.

There is an outstanding question about the influence that providers’ written submissions will have on the final outcomes. The HEFCE guidance released late last year stated that the metrics would only create an “initial hypothesis” outcome. It also stated (in bold) that “the more clear-cut performance is against the core metrics, the less likely it is that the initial hypothesis will change” as a result of provider submissions.

Nonetheless, TEF chair Chris Husbands and DfE officials have been at pains to stress the importance of the provider submissions and their potential for influencing changing the initial hypotheses. We will only get a sense later this week of the true balance between quantitative and qualitative measures in final outcomes. If qualitative evaluations appear to carry more influence than initially expected in the HEFCE guidance, Husbands and his panel will have to be sure that they can defend their judgements in a relatively objective manner.

There are thus two ‘rings’ of expectation management which could shape the media narrative on outcomes. On the one hand, observers with some knowledge of the exercise and the expected metric outcomes could have expectations confounded if written submissions are particularly influential. On the other, the general public’s expectations of ‘good’ universities could be confounded if the final outcomes closely match the metrics.

Read more:

As a refresher ahead of the results later this week, Wonkhe’s Ant Bagshaw has produced a beginner’s guide to TEF.

The incredible machine: what next for TEF? – conference June 8th

The Teaching Excellence Framework has proved to be the most controversial policy in UK higher education over the last two years. With the results of TEF2 eagerly anticipated, on 8th June in London, Wonkhe is hosting a one-day conference to explore all the important issues and to look ahead to the future of the exercise.

To find out more, and book a place, click here.