Laurie Taylor – 6 October 2016

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

October 6, 2016
Women in starting position for race
Source: Rex/iStock montage

It appears that many of our regular readers are confused about the forthcoming teaching excellence framework. We are therefore pleased to present this simple guide to what promises to be yet another exciting way of measuring the essential differences between English universities.

Q. What is the TEF?
A. It stands for teaching excellence framework. Much like the old research excellence framework. But instead of measuring research output, the TEF measures teaching quality.

Q. But isn’t it difficult to measure something so varied, so personal, as teaching quality?
A. No problem at all. The TEF will use data from the National Student Survey.

Q. But isn’t the NSS data contaminated by the finding that students give high ratings to teachers who are generous markers and lower ratings to female and ethnic minority teachers?
A. That’s true.

Q. And wasn’t it the NSS that recently placed five of the Russell Group universities in the bottom 10 for teaching satisfaction?
A. That’s true.

Q. And didn’t the Russell Group then say that the tables were ‘likely to be inaccurate and misleading’?
A. That’s true.

Q. So are there other more reliable ways to measure teaching quality?
A. The TEF also awards teaching quality points to those universities that are good at student retention.

Q. What does that have to do with teaching?
A. It’s quite obvious. If students leave during the course of their degree, then it must be because they don’t think much of their teachers.

Q. Really?
A. But just to be on the safe side, there’s also a third way to measure teaching quality. All you have to do is look at the jobs that students obtain after leaving university.

Q. What does that have to do with teaching?
A. It’s quite obvious. Students who go on to obtain better jobs must have had better teachers.

Q. And how will universities be rated on the TEF? Will there be a league table?
A. Oh, nothing so crude as that. After all the calculations have been made, each English university will be awarded a Gold or a Silver or a Bronze medal to signify their overall teaching quality. And those with high ratings will then be allowed to raise their tuition fees.

Q. While other universities, on the basis of these indicators, will be publicly branded as Bronze or third-rate?
A. That’s the beauty of the scheme.

Q. Might some Russell Group universities end up with Bronze medals?
A. That’s unlikely.

Q. Fiddled results?
A. Refined criteria.

(At this point the conversation was interrupted by a loud rumbling noise, which, upon inspection, turned out to be the sound made by several thousand academics rolling over in the face of yet another attempt by the government to turn a complex, multifaceted feature of higher education into a consumer product that can be as readily measured and packaged and compared as the contents of a supermarket shelf.)

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