TEF ‘not meaningful’ until discipline data available

Institution-level statistics will be ‘too generic’, THE/HEA webchat hears

May 27, 2016
Pile of colorful measuring tapes
Source: Alamy

Ratings in the teaching excellence framework will be of little use to students or employers until discipline-level data are available, it has been warned.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, told a webchat hosted by Times Higher Education and the Higher Education Academy that institutional data would be “too generic” to be used in application or employment decisions.

Under proposals released as part of the higher education White Paper, the TEF will not operate at course level until 2019-20, following piloting in 2018-19.

But most students choose their university by course, and there can be widespread variation in standards across institutions.

Scroll down to hear the full webchat

Mr Isherwood said that the TEF was unlikely to “start to get any real traction” until discipline-level data were available, and that it was a “disappointment” that it would take so long to get to that stage.

“I understand getting it right and taking time [but] four years away? That bothers me that it takes so long to get to discipline level,” Mr Isherwood said. “I think people will need it at discipline level – that’s where it becomes meaningful around student choice. Institution level is too generic a rating.”

Mr Isherwood was joined in the webchat by Stephanie Marshall, the HEA’s chief executive, and by Julie McLeod, pro vice-chancellor (student experience) at Oxford Brookes University.

Professor McLeod argued that the government’s decision to phase in the TEF more slowly was welcome because proposed metrics such as satisfaction and graduate employment were “poor proxies” for teaching standards. She argued that strong weight would need to be placed on the written evidence that institutions will be able to submit alongside their evidence.

“Metrics can over time lead to a herd mentality and chasing numerical scores,” Professor McLeod said. “Therefore the contextual element of the TEF will be critical in ensuring different missions are best recognised.”


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Reader's comments (1)

It is interesting that the HEA are now privileging disciplines having got rid of the highly praised subject centres.

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