Universities challenge Teaching Excellence Framework ratings

Large swathes of scores missing as OfS publishes first results of newly revamped exercise

September 28, 2023
Source: iStock

One in five larger higher education institutions have challenged their rating in the newly revamped Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), with those unhappy with their scores claiming that the process has penalised those with large numbers of disadvantaged students.

The Office for Students (OfS) has announced the results of the 2023 initiative, the first time universities have been rated on their teaching quality since 2019.

Of 128 larger higher education institutions, primarily those with university status, 33 received a gold rating (26 per cent), 66 got silver (52 per cent), and there were four bronzes (3 per cent).

But 25 (20 per cent) are still listed as “pending” because the institutions are challenging the provisional result they received over the summer.

Manchester Metropolitan University, Nottingham Trent University and Goldsmiths, University of London as well as the universities of Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Lincoln, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Sussex and Sheffield are among those with “pending” ratings, according to the OfS.

Guidance from the regulator states that “providers that made representations about their provisional ratings that were not concluded in time for publication of the final ratings” are listed as pending.

Frances Corner, the warden of Goldsmiths, has written to Robert Halfon, the higher education minister, expressing concern that the number of students eligible for free school meals (FSM) was not included as part of the benchmarking for the exercise, something she warned might have affected some providers’ performances.

“The failure of the OfS to benchmark against FSM eligibility means that we and other institutions are potentially being treated unfairly in a regulatory process like TEF,” she writes.

Goldsmith’s analysis of the OfS data suggests that the omission of the benchmark might have suppressed its scores for a third of its undergraduates by six points for continuation, seven points for completion and four points for progression.

Of the published ratings, no provider received the new “requires improvement” rating that is given when the OfS determines an “absence of excellence”.

Those receiving bronze included Birkbeck, University of London, Leeds Beckett University and BPP University.

Gold ratings were given to some members of the Russell Group, such as the universities of Liverpool and York, but also to lower-tier providers such as the University of Derby and Teesside University.

Both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge received gold, but UCL got silver, as did the London School of Economics, which was an improvement on its bronze rating in 2019.

For the first time, universities have been given two ratings that make up their overall award: one for the student experience and another for student outcomes. All providers in England with more than 500 undergraduates were required to take part, with participation voluntary for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish universities.

BPP was the only university to receive a “requires improvement” for one aspect of its provision, its student experience, but was awarded a silver for its student outcomes.

Sir Chris Husbands, chair of the TEF panel and vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said the ratings “confirm that England’s higher education sector deserves its world-leading reputation” and will “serve as an important driver for future improvement”.

Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the OfS, said the ratings will “help guide future students as they make choices about what and where to study”.

“They show that excellence is found in a diverse range of institutions, with students from all backgrounds receiving an excellent education that equips them for success beyond graduation,” Ms Lapworth added.


Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2023: results

ProviderOverall ratingStudent experience ratingStudent outcomes rating

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