Teaching excellence framework ‘will fail’, conference hears

Panelists call on government to avoid making TEF a ‘bureaucratic exercise’

November 10, 2015
Bureaucracy, bureaucratic, bureaucrat
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The teaching excellence framework (TEF) “will fail” if the government succeeds in pushing the policy through, a conference has heard.

The comment, made by Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, was one of a number of concerns shared by a panel of sector representatives on a discussion at the Chartered Association of Business Schools’ (CABS) annual conference on how the TEF might work.

While the panel broadly agreed with the government’s Green Paper, published last week, that the issue of teaching quality was a key policy area on the agenda, they said that the government must not make it a “bureaucratic exercise”.

“We don’t need to have a massive bureaucracy, if it gets through it will fail,” Sir Anthony said. “What we need is for the heads of [universities], the vice-chancellors, to be heads of professional learning and teaching, themselves. They need to take responsibility.

“For far too long this whole HE sector has been dominated by the producers. It’s not always about the consumer but it’s a lot more about the consumer and about education than it is just about the producers.

“Teaching is a profession, it’s something you can learn about. You can learn how to give better tutorials, seminars and lectures. Until business schools and higher education in general start taking this far more seriously and professionally [it will continue to be insufficient].”

Georgina Andrews, head of business and management in the School of Society, Enterprise and Environment at Bath Spa University, said that bureaucratic interference “will lead to game playing by institutions”, but her main concern was the notion that the TEF “will, almost inevitably, drive up fees”.

“My first concern is the very notion that TEF has to be in some way linked with the ability to charge higher fees,” she said.

“It’s something that in a consultation with CABS members, we were opposed to. While we appreciate the need to drive up standards, the notion that it has to be linked with increasing fees is something we felt was flawed.

“It’s reinforcing that notion that price is an indication of quality because who, having been awarded a higher TEF ranking, is going to refrain from actually charging higher fees?”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that the Green Paper was “inching towards making [the TEF] more bureaucratic”, and that those in the sector “don’t really know” how it might work.

“Shaping what the TEF looks like is [a] completely winnable [argument], and if we don’t like the metrics collectively, we need to come up with better ones,” he said.

“It’s very important that we keep the government to the point. If we think the proposals are too bureaucratic, the door is ajar for us to say that.”


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