The Government is, rightly in my view, committed to raising the salience of good teaching in higher education.
Its preferred means for doing so is a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). No one yet knows exactly what that will look like.
Only two things are certain: one, that the TEF will be hard to get right; and two, that the Government’s stated timetable is optimistic – arguably to the point of impossibility.
A consultation on the TEF has been promised for autumn 2015, which will start to clarify the murky picture. The process has to happen swiftly because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said the right to raise fees in 2017 is to be linked to each university’s teaching quality.*
Raising fees in 2017 means announcing new fee levels by the spring or early summer of 2016 because:
- universities need to publicise their fee levels in prospectuses and on open days;
- applicants need to know fee levels some time in advance of completing their UCAS forms;
- the Student Loans Company needs time to get the right systems in place to accommodate a new two-tier fees and loans system in which some universities are allowed to raise their fees and some are not.
All this means the Government has just nine months to:
- propose a way of measuring teaching;
- consult upon it (government consultations usually take three months);
- absorb the lessons from the consultation by amending the model;
- set the new process in place;
- evaluate each university against the new test;
- run an appeals process for institutions that fail; and
- pass any new legislation that might prove necessary.
That is some task.
* This may, admittedly, be via TEF-lite rather than the final TEF model.