Stop using ‘out of date’ TEF ratings in marketing, providers told

Regulator extends existing awards, with results of reformed evaluation not due to be published until 2023

June 14, 2021
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English universities have been told to stop using awards made under the teaching excellence framework (TEF) in their marketing because they are “increasingly out of date”.

Awards of gold, silver and bronze, based on universities’ performance in areas such as graduate employment, student satisfaction and retention, were last made in 2019. The exercise has been in stasis since then, while the Westminster government considered a review conducted by Dame Shirley Pearce and whether to shift to subject-level assessments – a plan that was dropped earlier this year.

Ministers have now announced plans to redraw the TEF metrics and to conduct evaluations periodically – every four or five years – rather than annually.

In a letter to providers, Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, says that the English regulator plans to consult on a revised TEF methodology this autumn. Under that timeline, submissions for new awards would be made in the second half of 2022, with outcomes being announced in “early 2023”, although this is subject to consultation, Mr Millward says.

All current TEF awards – dating back to the start of the exercise in 2017 – had been due to expire in summer 2021. As a result, all existing awards have been “extended until publication of the outcomes of the next TEF exercise”, Mr Millward says.

“As extended TEF awards will become increasingly out of date, we consider that they should no longer be promoted or used to inform student choice once the 2021 student application cycle is complete,” Mr Millward continues. “We are therefore advising providers not to use their TEF awards in marketing or promotional materials from September 2021.”

TEF awards are being removed from the OfS’ Discover Uni website and from Ucas’ website, the letter says, and any providers that do not hold a TEF award currently will be able to apply for a “provisional” rating that will remain valid until new outcomes are published.

Universities from across the UK are eligible to take part in the TEF. Sector leaders have previously expressed concern about how the unequal impact of the pandemic on institutions will be reflected in the next round of results.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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