Valuable qualifications

September 3, 2015

The letter discussing the teaching excellence framework and teaching qualifications (“TEF: to keep it simple would be stupid”, 20 August) is a welcome addition to the debate.

The timetable for the TEF is challenging, but the sector must resist the temptation to use data that is easy to collect but that will not incentivise the change of behaviours that is required. Measuring teaching quality is complicated and contested, but there is much that we already know about the steps that higher education institutions take to improve their teaching. Importantly, we also know that students value much of this activity, and there is a risk that the student voice is not being heard in this debate.

Tony Strike, the author of the letter, discusses the publication by the Higher Education Funding Council for England of Higher Education Statistics Agency data on teaching qualifications and advises caution in using these datasets to inform the TEF. Strike rightly advises that the ability to teach can be demonstrated in many different ways. Higher Education Academy fellowships recognise this fact, providing a means by which individuals can demonstrate sustained engagement with the criteria that the sector accepts as being the basis of good teaching. Fellowship allows people to demonstrate their practice and takes into account subject as well as teaching expertise to present a rounded picture of proficiency to teach.

The HEA believes that training for those who teach should be a key consideration in the TEF. We know that training is a key concern for students from surveys such as this year’s Higher Education Policy Institute/HEA Student Academic Experience Survey. Training and ongoing professional development opportunities for staff can demonstrate that a provider is keen to create the environment in which excellent teaching can flourish.

Students want and expect their staff to be qualified in some way – this can’t be ignored by the sector. Like your correspondent, the HEA does not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to training – institutional and mission group considerations are paramount. But ignoring the importance of qualifications for those who teach in a framework about teaching excellence does not make sense.

Mark Jones
Chief operating officer
Higher Education Academy

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