Going for gold: how to craft a winning TEF submission

Teaching excellence rests on clear principles and agile strategy, collaboration with students and a frank approach to educational gain, write Emily Pollinger and Julian Chaudhuri. Here, they share tips for maintaining and evidencing success


University of Bath
17 Apr 2024
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Hand holding three gold medals
image credit: iStock/Brian A. Jackson.

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The UK’s Office for Students (OfS) announced in February that assessments were complete for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2023 exercise and they have published the final outcomes.

For TEF 2023, the University of Bath was awarded triple gold – for student experience, student outcomes and overall. Our provider submission, student submission and TEF panel summary statement can be found here.

As project sponsor and project lead for our TEF provider submission, we worked closely with colleagues across the university to produce a compelling, evidence-based narrative. Our approach to TEF included:

  • Reflecting on our founding principles and current strategy
  • Collaborating and co-creating with students
  • Writing an honest and aspirational definition of educational gain.

Here, we would like to share key elements that contributed to our success.

Founding principles and current strategy

When composing our submission, three important source documents were our founding principles, which underpin our emphasis on practical “real world” experiential learning, our vision for education, which articulates our aspirations for the contribution of our graduates in the future, and our University Strategy 2021-26 , one pillar of which supports excellence in education. 

This strategy also states the key performance indicators that were chosen in 2021 as a measurement of success, which then provided part of the evidence base for evaluation and demonstration of educational gains, assured by their scrutiny at Senate and Council.

Key advice 

If you are approaching the end of your current strategy, put in place now the metrics that you think will be important and work this backwards from your vision of where you want to be.

Collaborate and co-create with students 

  • Our students’ union (SU) wrote an independent TEF student submission. Bath’s SU representatives were part of our internal data workshops, Bath’s SU education officer was a member of the provider submission task-and-finish group, and drafts of the provider submission were shared with the SU throughout the drafting process and prior to submitting.
  • This collaboration on the TEF project was underpinned by a genuine working relationship. We have heard from a TEF student panellist that it was easy to spot those submissions where the working relationship was valued by both sides outside the TEF exercise. 
  • We had no input into our SU’s student submission, but the views expressed were not a surprise to us as they form part of an ongoing conversation as to how to enhance education at Bath. As noted in our provider submission, our students are our most important critics, and their feedback is paramount when forming our academic policy and educational development.

Key advice 

Develop a mutually respectful collaborative working relationship with your SU and facilitate student involvement in the provider submission from the beginning. 

Defining educational gain

We wanted to distil the purpose and value of higher education into our definition of educational gain and to differentiate it from a generic offering that could apply to any university, and to bring the distinctive aspects of Bath’s educational offering to the fore. 

We wanted to articulate a definition that would reflect our priorities as an institution and which would explain the ethos behind the data to prospective students. We feel that we achieved this. 

Co-creation of our definition of educational gain with our SU was key. A shared understanding and common goal between students and staff allow the university to assess itself and the students to hold us to account.

Key advice 

Triangulate your knowledge of your students with your founding principles and current strategy to describe the trajectory that will evidence educational gain.

Our TEF journey 2017 to 2023

We entered the 2023 TEF exercise holding a gold award from 2017. We were keen to retain this award because we believe that education at Bath genuinely is excellent.

Happily, the TEF panel assessed us as being outstanding for 12 of the 13 features of excellence, including all three relating to educational gain. This consistency validates Bath’s “whole-institution” approach; it means that the award is robust and it gives confidence to students that Bath could be the right choice for them. 

While at Bath we undoubtedly had a strong data set, the indicators could “contribute no more than half of the evidence of excellence. The provider submission will need to provide evidence of excellence that is additional to the TEF indicators, for the panel to be able to identify a range of very high quality or outstanding features across each aspect.” Our provider submission was a labour of love to represent our educational offer fairly and accurately.

Emily Pollinger is education policy and programmes manager and Julian Chaudhuri is pro-vice-chancellor (education and global), both at the University of Bath.

If you would like advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the Campus newsletter.

Julian Chaudhuri talks about the working relationship with Bath’s students’ union on a vlog here.

Further thoughts from Emily Pollinger on Bath’s process of articulating, supporting and evidencing our definition of educational gain can be found here together with a review of approaches across the sector here.


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