Teaching Excellence Framework

The Government is introducing a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which aims to recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching. The stated aims of the TEF are to:

  • Ensure that all students receive an excellent teaching experience that encourages original thinking, drives up engagement and prepares them for the world of work;
  • Build a culture where teaching has equal status with research, with great teachers enjoying the same professional recognition and opportunities for career and pay progression as great researchers;
  • Provide students with the information they need to judge teaching quality;
  • Recognise institutions that do the most to welcome students from a range of backgrounds and support their retention and progression;
  • Include a clear set of outcome-focused criteria and metrics.

In 2016 the Government published set out its proposals for the implementation of the TEF, in Teaching Excellence Framework: Year Two – Technical Consultation. London Medicine & Healthcare held a discussion meeting focusing on this topic in summer 2016 and we also responded to the TEF consultation.

A key point in our response was that there are a number of London specific issues that have the potential to impact on any metrics used to calculate the TEF. We proposed that location-adjusted benchmarks should be implemented in order to take this into account. This would enable geographical location to be considered when TEF metrics are being created. One London specific issue is the fact that London students are not typically campus-based, as they are in many other areas of the country. Also, a higher proportion of London students live at home whilst studying, as compared to elsewhere in the UK, which would class them as ‘commuter students’. It has been noted that these factors can be related to universities not achieving as high NSS scores as their counterparts, therefore possibly putting London universities at a disadvantage when it comes to the TEF metrics.

Further, a particular issue affecting medical, dental and healthcare courses is that students on these courses spend a significant period of time on placements. It is likely that students will take into account their experience of placements when deciding how satisfied or not they are with their course when completing surveys such as the NSS. However, the very nature of a placement means that it is not under the day-to-day control of a university, and so there is a danger that universities could essentially be scored on elements that are beyond their immediate control.

Following the publication of the TEF Year Two specifications in September 2016 London Higher received feedback from some of its divisions and networks that many of the issues highlighted by the HE sector in their responses to the TEF consultation have not been addressed. As a result of this two London Higher divisions, including London Medicine & Healthcare, compiled letters outlining our key concerns. From our perspective outstanding concerns comprise:

  • The danger that using NSS scores to measure student satisfaction means that students who are dissatisfied with their clinical placements would lead to HEIs achieving lower TEF scores. Placements often take place at external clinical sites, for example in hospitals or community settings, of which HEIs cannot always have full control over due to the nature of them being separate entities.
  • The current reforms to healthcare education funding will affect widening participation for healthcare students. With the move from a bursary system to a loan system, it is feared that there will be a significant impact on the number of students applying for healthcare courses. It is anticipated that a significant number of these students will be from WP backgrounds and particularly mature groups. The impact on TEF scores from this may be detrimental.
  • Measuring the percentage of students who undertake a specific course or graduate from a particular university, who then enter a graduate-level occupation is a sensible aim. However the particular context for health may lead to unfair comparisons. The employment outcomes for health students are inextricably linked to broader issues such as NHS funding and workforce planning. Therefore, care needs to be taken to ensure that HEIs that offer health courses are not unfairly penalized for factors that are beyond their control.
  • The need for location-adjusted benchmarks to be implemented.