The gamble of resubmitting to the teaching excellence framework appears to have paid off for many UK higher education institutions, with the universities of Liverpool and Southampton among those managing to improve their ratings.
More than 20 higher education institutions were included in the 2018 results of the exercise, published on 6 June. They were largely providers that did not take part last year – when most UK universities received their ratings – or ones hoping to improve their score.
Tweaks to the methodology this year were perceived as being potentially beneficial to members of the Russell Group that underperformed in the first year of the TEF, with the weighting placed on results of the National Student Survey being halved and a supplementary metric on graduate earnings being introduced.
However, there was always the risk that institutions re-entering the TEF would fail to improve their position or, in some cases, even end up with a lower rating.
The gamble paid off for Liverpool and Southampton, two Russell Group members that received the lowest bronze rating in 2017, with both improving their score to silver. Last year, Sir Christopher Snowden, Southampton’s vice-chancellor, claimed that the TEF was “fundamentally flawed” and had “no value or credibility”.
Deborah Johnston, Soas’ pro-director of teaching and learning, has previously complained of a “London effect” in the TEF, with the cost of living in the capital perceived as dragging down institutions’ performance on satisfaction and retention.
This may have been a factor in the decision of the London School of Economics, the UK’s fifth-highest placed institution in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, not to re-enter the TEF this year. It is now the only Russell Group provider with a bronze award.
Chris Husbands, chair of the TEF and vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, played down the impact of the change in the methodology, saying that providers “were assessed on the same criteria, the same assessment domains, while taking cognisance of the changes in the methodology”. Alongside metrics on retention, satisfaction and graduate employment, providers are assessed on 15-page submissions.
“A shift in rating reflects the panel’s judgement on the performance of the institution as it was presented to us this year. TEF is a point-in-time judgement,” Professor Husbands said.
After this year’s results, the percentage of institutions with a gold rating overall is now 27 per cent, with silver at 50 per cent and bronze at 23 per cent. This is a slight shift from last year, where 26 per cent of institutions were rated gold, 50 per cent silver and 24 per cent bronze.
The significance of the TEF has been lessened by the government’s decision to freeze tuition fees at £9,250 – increases beyond this were to have been linked to the results of the exercise – but Professor Husbands said that the TEF was still having a significant impact.
“You can’t run this without realising that it is conceptually challenging and controversial but the TEF is shaping thinking about teaching and focusing on outcomes for students in a way that I think is really healthy,” he said.
Teaching excellence framework 2018: selected results
|Guildhall School of Music and Drama||Silver|
|Harper Adams University||Gold|
|University of Hertfordshire||Silver|
|Royal Academy of Music||Gold|
|University of York||Silver|
|University of the West of England||Silver|
|Silver||Bucks New University||Bronze|
|University of Hull||Silver|
|University of Liverpool||Bronze|
|University of Plymouth||Bronze|
|University of Southampton||Bronze|
|Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance||Bronze|
|University of Warwick||Silver|
|University of Wolverhampton||Bronze|
|Bronze||University of Salford||Bronze|
|Soas, University of London||Bronze|
|University of Wales Trinity Saint David||Bronze|
|Richmond, the American International University in London||Provisional|
Source: Office for Students. Table shows results for higher education institutions and alternative providers with university status. For results for further education colleges, click here. For 2017 results, click here.