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The TEF: an idiot’s guide to the arguments for and against

  • 6 March 2017

HEPI has probably published more critiques of the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) than any other organisation. Four of these are shown in the slide below, and there have been other pieces – such as blogs – alongside.

While it is easy to criticise elements of the TEF (not least the metrics), we have nonetheless always aimed to be constructive in our approach. So we recognise that, while the main criticisms of the TEF (which are shown in red in the slide below) are valid, there are also some powerful responses.

To take one example, while it is worth asking whether it is the role of Government to rank independent universities as the TEF will do, Ministers can respond that the process will put more information in the public domain than ever before about teaching and learning in higher education. It is hard to claim more information is a bad thing (just so long as it is contextualised properly).

Similarly, while the specific weaknesses of the TEF are clear, there are still some persuasive arguments in favour of the main features. For example, while personally I am not keen on the fee link, especially while the TEF is undertaken at an institutional rather than a discipline level, as with so much else on the TEF it is an issue on which reasonable minds can differ.

And when you consider the higher propensity of English institutions to enter the TEF and the lower prosperity of Scottish institutions to do so, it is hard to disagree with Ministers when they are argue that the fee link is necessary to ensure institutions take the TEF seriously. This and other issues are briefly considered in the slide below.


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