Delay TEF development in light of Brexit vote, says UUK

Vice-chancellors argue that exercise should not go beyond pilot stage because of ‘significant instability’

July 13, 2016
Turbulent river crossing
Source: Getty
Troubled waters: Universities UK said that the result of the EU referendum meant that the higher education sector faced ‘a period of significant instability’

Development of the teaching excellence framework (TEF) should be delayed in light of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, vice-chancellors say.

In its response to the technical consultation on stage two of the TEF, which will pilot assessments of institutions in areas such as student satisfaction, retention and graduate employment, Universities UK says that the result of the EU referendum meant that the higher education sector now faced “a period of significant instability”.

UUK argues that further evolution of the TEF, including the introduction of subject-level assessments, should be put on hold as a result.

“The recruitment of overseas students – particularly from the EU – is potentially at risk, and economic forecasts are increasingly challenging, both of which have implications for the financial sustainability of the sector,” says UUK, which represents the leaders of 133 institutions. “In light of this it is essential that TEF 2, including its implementation and outcomes, is clearly treated and presented as a test exercise.

“Furthermore, future versions of the TEF, including piloting of discipline-level assessments, should not proceed until lessons about the impacts of TEF 2 have been learned.”

The government has already agreed to phase in introduction of the link between TEF scores and tuition fees more slowly than originally planned. Its current proposals would see assessments made on TEF metrics and institutional submissions made on a pilot basis in 2017-18.

The link between fees and results would come in during 2018-19, alongside piloting of assessments at disciplinary level and introduction of potential new metrics. In 2019-20, subject-level results would be linked to fees, and taught postgraduate courses would be added to the exercise.

Sector agencies’ responses to the TEF reveal broader concerns about how results would be perceived by prospective students, particularly the three proposed ratings: “meets expectations”, “excellent” and “outstanding”.

Both UUK and MillionPlus, which represents modern universities, highlight that “meets expectations” could be perceived negatively, and argue that it should be changed to “good”, while the Higher Education Academy and the National Union of Students call for reconsideration of “excellent” and “outstanding”, since they are often used as synonyms.

Sector responses also outline widespread opposition to the government’s proposal to assess universities not just on the proportion of their leavers that enter the labour market, but also on the proportion that get “graduate-level” jobs.

The government proposes to base its judgements on the Office for National Statistics’ standard occupational classification groups, but respondents argue that these have failed to keep pace with the changing graduate careers market: for example, they class shopkeepers and beauty salon managers as being highly skilled, but not university teaching assistants, who are usually PhD candidates, or veterinary nurses. Students in creative careers could also be disadvantaged, argue MillionPlus and GuildHE.

The NUS warns that such a measure could lead to universities focusing only on courses that led to high levels of “professional” employment.

“There is a considerable danger that this metric will have perverse effects on the behaviour of institutions which could lead to course closures and the undersupply of labour in certain key areas of employment,” the union’s response says.

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Reader's comments (2)

Post Brexit, we should expect that tuition fees for EU students should rise substantially. Elementary economics should tell us that numbers will drop proportionately. Equity and business common sense would indicate that doubling fees to "non -EU" levels will kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Accordingly, I would expect a tuition cut for India, China, Vietnam, Australia, etc. and a common tariff for all non-UK students somewhere around GBP 13,000. Comments ?
Meanwhile local people are priced out of the universities they strove to create. None of the universities in this country came about because of overseas involvement did they. Why then are the facilities handed over to those who can afford to pay the highest coin. Time for change. Specifically teaching need to be inspected by an OFSTED inspectorate the same as in schools and colleges. This needs to be undertaken faculty by faculty. The inspectorate is independent , that means no inspector is paid by the university concerned. Only then will we have confidence in the teaching taking place. Research is a different skill set, however international involvement can take place between universities. Just why is it necessary to bring researchers here often with a poor command of spoken English then assume they can also teach. I have just been refunded money from the university that did very well under the TEF system. My complaint concerned poor teaching, poor spoken English and poor management of a curriculum, that complaint was upheld. It took a year out of my life not yet accounted for, and took another year to go through the complaints procedure - intolerable. Keele tells me it has had a root and branch sort out of the Law School, however part of the complaint concerned two other schools within the university, where components of the course were managed. Universities attempting to supervise themselves appears not to work. I am about to put this to the relevant ombudsman and ask simple questions about the standard of teaching within universities. Right now I can see that universities will lose local young people to the apprentice scheme that will grow and grow, Universities left in dire need of recruits will be taken over by industry - full circle of the university life cyle I think. So certain ones in the university sector need to stop lamenting their lot and step up to the plate now. Start by speaking to local industry and make sure who ever you send, can actually speak the same language found in that industry. A simple plea, do not send out the barely audible people who could not string a sentence together. I heard, a sentence without a clear start, middle or end, and sentences without a subject. These were the people sat in front of me and thought they were teaching ideas concerning a technical subject. Clearly my refund proves that they were not teaching up to the standards expected in this country.

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