The results of the 2017 teaching excellence framework (TEF) have been released, with more than 130 UK universities and other higher education institutions being awarded gold, silver or bronze ratings for the quality of their teaching.
The TEF is a government-backed assessment of undergraduate teaching quality across all higher education institutions in England, which also includes some institutions in Scotland and Wales (with others opting not to take part). The results in full are published below, along with each institution’s position in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017 and its research excellence framework grade point average. The THE world ranking and REF scores are for information purposes only, and do not inform the TEF results.
Our TEF results table features 134 higher education institutions, plus three alternative providers with university title. About one in three of these colleges and universities (45) received the top rating: gold. The silver rating was given to 67 institutions, with 25 receiving the lowest rating, bronze.
Among those in the top category are the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, along with six other institutions from the Russell Group (the University of Birmingham; the University of Exeter; Imperial College London; the University of Leeds; Newcastle University; and the University of Nottingham).
At the other end of the scale, a number of world-renowned universities received a bronze award. These include the London School of Economics, the University of Southampton, and the University of Liverpool – all members of the Russell Group.
To find out which universities got gold, which universities got silver, and which universities got bronze, view the table below.
TEF results 2017: gold, silver or bronze? (HEIs and alternative providers with university title)
NR indicates a university is not ranked by Times Higher Education
This table includes 134 higher education institutions plus three alternative providers with university title
For a more detailed table, view the THE TEF metrics table.
The following institutions did not take part in the teaching excellence framework 2017:
Aberystwyth University; Brighton and Sussex Medical School; Cranfield University; Edinburgh Napier University; Glasgow Caledonian University; Glasgow School of Art; Heythrop College; Hull York Medical School; Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; London Business School; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Medway School of Pharmacy; Queen Margaret University; Royal College of Art; Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; SRUC; St Mary's University College; Stranmillis University College; Institute of Cancer Research; National Film and Television School; Open University; Queen's University Belfast; Regent's University London; University of Aberdeen; University of Edinburgh; University of Glasgow; University of Stirling; University of Strathclyde; University of the West of Scotland; University of Wales (central); University of London (institutes and activities); University of South Wales; University of the Highlands and Islands; and Ulster University.
TEF results 2017: alternative providers
|University of Buckingham||Gold|
|University of Law||Gold|
|Chicken Shed Theatre Trust||Silver|
|Kaplan Open Learning||Silver|
|London Studio Centre||Silver|
The following alternative providers received a provisional TEF award because there was not enough data available for a full assessment: ABI College Limited; The Academy of Contemporary Music Limited; Access to Music Limited; ALRA; Architectural Association (Incorporated); Assemblies of God Incorporated; BIMM Limited; Bristol Baptist College; Brit College Limited; City and Guilds of London Art School Limited; CWR; East End Computing & Business College Limited; The Edward James Foundation Limited; University College of Estate Management; Fairfield School of Business Ltd; Futureworks Training Limited; Grafton College Limited; Hy Education Limited; ICMP Management Limited; Kensington Education Foundation Limited; The Kingham Hill Trust; KLC Limited; London Bridge Business Academy Limited; London College of Creative Media Limited; The London Institute of Banking & Finance; London School of Business and Management Limited; London School of Management Education Limited; London School of Science & Technology Limited; London School of Theology; Luther King House Educational Trust; Met Film School Limited; Moorlands College; Nazarene Theological College; Nelson College London Limited; Norland College Limited; Northern College of Acupuncture; Oxford Business College UK Limited; Pearson College Limited; Point Blank Limited; The Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education; RTC Education Ltd; SAE Education Limited; The Salvation Army; Spurgeon's College; Stratford College London Limited; Tertiary Education Services Limited; Trinity College (Bristol) Limited; UCK Limited; UK College of Business and Computing Ltd.
Methodology: how is the TEF calculated?
Six core metrics lie behind each university’s final award in the teaching excellence framework. Three of these come from the National Student Survey and relate to students’ views on the quality of teaching, assessment and academic support received. A fourth metric is based on a university’s dropout rates, while the final two relate to what graduates did after leaving.
On each metric, universities received a positive or negative flag if they were above or below a benchmark based on the profile of their student cohort, or a double flag if they did particularly badly or well. The overall number of flags gave the initial rating: gold for those with three or more positive flags (either single or double) but no negative flags; bronze for those with two or more negative flags (regardless of other results) and silver for the rest. The assessors then adjusted this initial rating depending on an institution’s performance in “split metrics”, the same measures but split among different groups of students according to characteristics like gender, ethnicity and social background.
Assessors then reviewed the metrics result against individual written submissions given by each university. Depending on the contextual evidence provided, universities may have had their award adjusted up or down. The assessors finally considered their rating “holistically” against a “descriptor” of gold, silver or bronze teaching provision, further going back and revising their decision if they feel it did not match this description.
Making sense of the teaching excellence framework (TEF) results
A Centre for Global Higher Education policy briefing by Paul Ashwin, professor of higher education, Lancaster University
This article outlines the purpose of the TEF, how it works, and discusses the extent to which the results provide valuable information about the quality of undergraduate degree programmes.
Why was the TEF introduced?
In 2012, tuition fees for UK and European Union students in England were increased to a maximum of £9,000. All English universities now charge this maximum but the government is concerned that these flat fees mask large differences in the quality of degree programmes. The government has introduced the TEF with the intended purpose of providing students with better information about the quality of degree programmes so that they can make more informed choices about where to study. The government’s intention is also to raise the profile of teaching and ensure that it is better recognised and rewarded by universities. Currently, to raise fees in line with inflation, institutions need to make a TEF submission. In the future, increases in fees may be tied to TEF outcomes.
How does the TEF work?
Institutions that opted into the TEF this year were examined on three sets of metrics: students’ views of teaching, assessment and academic support from the National Student Survey (NSS); student dropout rates; and rates of employment. It is notable that none of these metrics directly measure the quality of teaching, although the NSS does give an insight into students’ perceptions of teaching. Instead, the metrics focus on examining the assumed effects of teaching.
Each submitting institution’s performance on these metrics was benchmarked against the demographic characteristics of its students, and its performance was flagged when it was statistically significantly better or worse than its benchmark. Assessors made an initial assessment of an institution’s performance based on its number of positive and negative flags and then examined contextual information and a 15-page institutional submission outlining the institution’s case for the excellence of its teaching. Based on this, institutions have been awarded a gold, silver or bronze TEF award.
Does the level of TEF award provide valuable information about the quality of a university’s teaching?
The TEF will provide students with better information about the quality of degree programmes than is currently offered by commercial higher education rankings. This is because the outcomes of higher education are shaped by the demographic characteristics of students, which have nothing to do with the quality of teaching in universities. The TEF attempts to control for these differences in student intake while university rankings do not.
While the TEF metrics do not directly measure the quality of teaching, there is a logic to them. The quality of a degree can reasonably be expected to be related to student perceptions of teaching, support and assessment, and to the proportion of students staying on their degree programmes and gaining employment or a place on a postgraduate course. While some have criticised the use of NSS results because teaching evaluations can discriminate against female and minority ethnic lecturers, this is based on a misunderstanding of the NSS. The NSS is focused on teaching across a whole degree programme and so does not differentiate between individual lecturers.
Does a gold TEF award mean that prospective students know that they are applying to an excellent degree programme?
A gold TEF award is based on an institutional level assessment. The same university can offer programmes that differ significantly in quality, which means that the TEF award does not tell prospective students about the quality of individual degree programmes. This means that it is highly likely that there are excellent degree programmes in universities with bronze awards and less good degree programmes in universities with gold awards. In addition, any student who uses the TEF to inform their choice of university will not graduate until at least four years after the metrics were taken and, as the TEF award is for three years, students on four-year degree programmes could be relying on data that is eight years old. By this time, it is entirely possible that the quality of teaching at that university will have fallen.
TEF judgements are based on assessment criteria that examine “teaching quality”, “learning environment” and “student outcomes”. For example, the assessment criteria for “teaching quality” focus on the extent to which an institution: encourages student engagement, values teaching, offers programmes that involve rigour and stretch, and offers effective feedback on student work. It is unclear how these criteria were selected and why others, such as teaching expertise, were excluded. This raises questions of how the criteria form a coherent whole indicating something important about the excellence of teaching. These questions undermine the claim that the TEF offers a valid measure of high-quality teaching.
Will the TEF lead to improvements in the quality of teaching in universities?
If the TEF is to lead to improvements in the quality of teaching in universities, then improvements in performance on the metrics used must be possible only through improvements in the quality of teaching that students experience. The three sets of metrics used this year are reasonable although, as discussed, there are weaknesses around the focus on the institutional level, the dated evidence that informs the metrics, and the lack of a coherent view of excellent teaching that informs the TEF.
In the future, the government wants to increase the number of metrics that are used and there are strong indications that this will include a metric related to the amount of contact hours on a programme. However, there is no evidence that contact hours are a valid measure of teaching quality. Conversely, factors that are known to be necessary elements of high-quality teaching, such as the expertise of those who teach, do not appear to be under consideration. If the TEF is based on measures that are unrelated to the quality of teaching, then it will end up measuring institutional game-playing rather than excellent teaching. If this happens, then the TEF will not lead to improvements in the quality of teaching in universities.