The performance of alternative providers in the UK’s teaching excellence framework (TEF) was varied, with gold ratings for the University of Buckingham and the University of Law, and a bronze for BPP University.
In total, six alternative providers had suitable metrics for full TEF assessment. The remaining institutions – Kaplan Open Learning, London Studio Centre, and the Chicken Shed Theatre Trust – received silver awards.
The institutions' results will be examined closely by sector observers looking for signs of the likely success of the government’s plans to increase competition and encourage more alternative providers to enter the English sector.
It is a somewhat disappointing result for BPP, whose motto is the “university for the professions”, and which prides itself on providing an education for students aiming to go straight into employment in fields such as law, finance, dentistry, or healthcare. Graduate employment and student satisfaction are among the core TEF metrics.
“Our links with leading businesses and organisations allow us to provide you with a highly regarded professional education,” BPP's website states. “Our tutors, most of whom have real-world practitioner experience, will not only ensure that you have the practical skills and academic knowledge needed for success, but that you also have the competitive edge that makes you stand out.”
In contrast, the University of Buckingham received “double positive” ratings in all six categories. The independent TEF panel commended Buckingham for its “small group teaching and rigorous attendance monitoring that facilitate a highly personalised approach to learning that promotes optimum rates of retention, attainment and progression”.
In a blog for Times Higher Education, Sir Anthony Seldon, Buckingham's vice-chancellor, says that the TEF will “do more than any single step in history to change the entire landscape of teaching in British universities”.
“Now it has arrived, the time has now come for reform. I write this not as a vice-chancellor whose university has done badly, but as one whose institution received the top rating,” he writes. “Good teaching has to be learned – it cannot be assumed.”
The majority of alternative providers did not have a wide enough set of metrics available for a full TEF assessment and therefore had to opt in for a provisional award. In total, 49 alternative providers received provisional awards.
Independent Higher Education (IHE), the representative body for many alternative providers, noted that it would “take a few years” for alternative providers to draw level with established providers as the “core metrics required are phased in and become more sensitive to the different student population and provision found in the independent sector”.
Alex Proudfoot, IHE's chief executive, said the TEF provides a “fascinating new perspective on familiar institutions and a recognition of where truly excellent work takes place to help students from all backgrounds make the most of their abilities”.
“Independent providers are used to putting their students first in everything they do, and will be eager for the opportunity the TEF represents to demonstrate this dedication in the years ahead,” he said.