Running TEF panels ‘could cost £500K’ a year

Figure described as ‘tip of the iceberg’ of new system’s price tag

June 13, 2016
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Source: Getty

Operating the panels that will determine universities’ ratings in the teaching excellence framework could cost more than £500,000 a year, a figure described as “the tip of the iceberg” of the new system’s costs.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is seeking to recruit a pool of up to 90 panel members and assessors to review and judge institutions’ submissions to the second year of the exercise, while a separate advert has been placed for a TEF chair to lead it.

The chair will be paid £12,000 a year for 30 days’ work a year, while the key panel members will include up to 14 academics and as many as five students or recent graduates. They will receive an estimated £8,000 for 24 to 26 days’ work.

Also on the panels will be up to five employer representatives and two widening participation experts, who are likely to be paid £5,000 for up to 14 days’ work.

The panels will be advised by assessors who will examine submissions in detail and make recommendations, Hefce says. It proposes recruiting up to 40 academics and as many as 25 students or recent graduates, offering about £5,000 for about 17 days’ work.

Hefce says that payments will be reduced if fewer working days are required, with an expected daily rate of £300 to £350 for panel members.

But if the maximum number of recruits took their full pay, the total would come to £524,000. Staff from Hefce and the Quality Assurance Agency will support the process.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the MillionPlus group, called these figures “the tip of the iceberg of the likely costs of the TEF”, given that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ plan to develop subject-level assessments in later years may require the recruitment of disciplinary specialists.

“The higher education White Paper and the TEF consultation confirm that a light-touch metrics-based approach is neither possible nor expected from BIS,” Ms Tatlow said. “The costs to universities of implementing the TEF will be significant and will increase over time if the proposals to assess disciplines are progressed.”

The government has said that all the administrative costs of the TEF will be paid for out of public funds but higher education providers would have to pay a registration fee to the Office for Students, which is earmarked to deliver the exercise from 2018-19 onwards.

In a business case for the new organisation, the government estimates that sector-wide registration fees would total £16 million in 2018-19, rising beyond £30 million over the following decade.

A Hefce spokesman said recruiting assessors and panel members would be “key to our ability to deliver a successful, trusted TEF for the sector”.

“In considering the appropriate rate of remuneration we took into account work carried out for the research excellence framework and for the QAA,” the spokesman said. “We need to be sure that we can attract candidates with sufficient experience and standing in the sector.”

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