Jo Johnson commits to Teaching Excellence Framework

Excellent teaching  ‘key priority’ for government

June 29, 2015

The government is “committed to introducing a Teaching Excellence Framework” in England, according to Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister.

Mr Johnson made the comment in a statement accompanying the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s launch of its consultation on new quality assurance arrangements.

Hefce’s consultation also gives some further details about the TEF, which the Conservatives committed to introducing in their election manifesto.

There will be a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills consultation with the sector on the TEF in the autumn, Hefce said.

“Excellent teaching and learning is a crucial element of a world-leading and internationally competitive higher education system, and a key priority for this government,” Mr Johnson said.

“We are committed to introducing a Teaching Excellence Framework as part of a wider approach to quality. In the meantime, I encourage you to respond to the [quality assurance] consultation being published today by the three funding bodies, and I look forward to seeing the responses, which in turn will help to shape our thinking on a TEF later in the year.”

Hefce’s quality assurance consultation says: “The new government is going to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and will work with the sector over the summer to inform a BIS consultation in the autumn.”

It adds: “BIS and HEFCE are continuing to work together to ensure the quality system in the round provides a strong complementary and proportionate approach. In particular, we have been mindful of the need to ensure that the overall quality system does not introduce duplication, or increase unnecessary bureaucratic burden on providers. In this respect, it should be noted that initial views from the government are that a cyclical, external, independent, peer review will form a key part of the coming TEF.”

The idea for a TEF goes back to before the election. David Willetts, the former universities and science minister, is known to have privately discussed the idea of a “teaching REF”.

It remains to be seen how the government would seek to use the results of such an exercise, and whether those results could play some role in university funding.

Mr Willetts told Times Higher Education following the publication of the Tory manifesto and its TEF proposal that there “needn’t be a single measure” of teaching quality, but the goal should be “improving the data”. He added that “down the track we would see if money then flowed as a result”.

The former minister has also argued that greater incentives need to be given to universities to offer good teaching as existing performance incentives are focused on research.

Sir Tim O’Shea, principal of the University of Edinburgh, expressed opposition to the idea of a teaching REF earlier this month.

“It seems to inevitably create a bureaucratic industry where we spend our time, rather than devising assessments and supporting learning, filling in forms and feeding tuna fish sandwiches to visiting assessors,” Sir Tim said. “We really wouldn’t welcome it at all.”

Mr Johnson had been scheduled to speak at a Universities UK board meeting on Friday, at which he was expected to discuss the TEF, but cancelled his appearance. He is now scheduled to give a speech at UUK on Wednesday.

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