Press release

Teaching Excellence Framework moves forward

Details of how universities will be rated under the second year of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) published today.

Plans to rate universities on the quality of teaching they offer have been confirmed today (29 September 2016) as the government publishes details of how the second trial year of the Teaching Excellence Framework will operate.

The framework, announced in the government’s higher education white paper ‘Success as a knowledge economy: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice’ in May, is now entering its second year. Documents published today give more detailed information on the assessments of year 2 - which will be carried out early next year, with ratings of gold, silver and bronze announced in May 2017. These ratings can then be used by students applying for university in autumn 2017 to get a clear picture of where they are likely to receive the best teaching and obtain the best outcomes. The assessment of providers in the second trial year of the framework will focus on outcomes such as student satisfaction, retention rates and employment data.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said;

By setting out clear incentives for universities, the framework will drive up quality in the sector at the same time as improving student choice and crucially, graduate outcomes - so that we can be confident we have the skills employers need now and for the future.

The framework will also give students clear, understandable information about where the best teaching is on offer and for the first time, place teaching quality on a par with research at our universities.

The responses to the Teaching Excellence Framework: year 2 - technical consultation demonstrated strong overall support for the broad framework. However, it also identified a number of specific suggestions as to how the framework could be further improved, many of which have been incorporated into the final specification, published today. For example, there will now be an appeals process, as well as better protections to ensure universities who take large numbers of socially disadvantaged students are assessed fairly.

Also announced today, providers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be able to participate in the TEF should they wish to do so. The framework has been adjusted to ensure that it can fairly assess the distinctive nature of higher education provision in each of the 4 nations of the UK. This will allow the TEF to operate across the UK - something that the sector as a whole was keen to see.

Each TEF assessment will be completed by looking at core metrics such as student satisfaction, non-continuation rates and employment data. It will also look at additional evidence submitted by providers. An assessment will be carried out by peers comprised of experts in teaching and learning as well as student representatives, employer representatives and widening participation experts.

Published today:

Notes to editors

Following this announcement, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said:

The minister has made it clear that he sees fair access as being integral to the TEF, and I welcome the publication of the year 2 specification. The links to fair access have been further strengthened, following clear support from the sector in their consultation responses. It is especially pleasing to see specific measures on positive outcomes for disadvantaged students, and clear instructions to TEF panellists that they should consider disadvantaged students at every stage.

While more people from disadvantaged backgrounds are in higher education than ever before, there is still an unexplained gap in outcomes between the most and least advantaged students. For disadvantaged students fair access is not just about getting in to higher education, it is about getting on too. TEF will ensure that higher education providers have to carefully consider about how to provide excellent teaching for all their students, whatever their background.

As outlined in the white paper published in May 2016, ‘Success as a knowledge economy’, the second year of TEF will trial the full assessment process at provider level, on a voluntary basis. The TEF year 2 documents published today confirm the government’s policy and plans to deliver provider level TEF assessments. The sector responded positively to the proposals presented in May 2016. The final proposals present a robust assessment framework, allowing rigorous comparison between providers without inhibiting sector innovation.

These assessments will be undertaken by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), working with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), who have been asked to implement year 2 of the TEF.

Providers who apply for TEF will receive 1 of 3 ratings:

  • gold
  • silver
  • bronze

Additional measures that will be included following the technical consultation are:

  • introducing an appeals process to allow providers to appeal their TEF outcome on the basis of a procedural irregularity
  • renaming the ratings gold, silver and bronze to make them easier to understand, and providing clearer information on how the assessment process will work
  • benchmarking the highly skilled employment and further study metric by social disadvantage and disability, to ensure providers who take large numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds are assessed fairly
  • removing an anomaly which meant that providers with very high benchmarks could not get good ratings, to ensure that providers which are achieving some of the best absolute outcomes will be treated fairly
  • using a definition of ‘employment’ consistent with that used for the UK performance indicators, which excludes students who are not seeking work. This definition will maintain consistency for providers, easing interpretation of their TEF metrics
  • adjusting the list of possible examples for additional evidence, to better recognise positive outcomes such as entrepreneurship and preparing students for research careers

More information on the Teaching Excellence Framework is available on GOV.UK.

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Published 29 September 2016