The teaching excellence framework’s focus on widening participation pays only “lip service” to inequality in English universities, a student leader has claimed.
Sorana Vieru, the vice-president (higher education) of the National Union of Students, said that the TEF was not made any more palatable by the statement from Jo Johnson, the universities minister, that progress of disadvantaged undergraduates is likely to be a key measure on which universities will be judged.
Speaking at the Quality Assurance Agency’s student engagement conference in Birmingham on 8 October, Ms Vieru said that it was clear that the TEF was “another roll of the dice at marketisation” and would create an environment in which the only power students had “lies in our decision where to take our money, or our debt, rather”.
“I will not stand...yet another measure that further removes us from our vision of what education should be like and transforms the entire game while they throw in some things that sound good just to trip us up,” she said.
Ms Vieru said that she did not expect universities to offer much resistance to the TEF, however, since they had taken “lying down” all of the government’s previous higher education reforms.
Institutions were unable to join forces to challenge ministers, she said, “because they are competing with each other for survival”.
Ms Vieru was sceptical about the help that individual academics could offer, also, claiming that many researchers felt that “they should simply be given chunks of money, preferably public, rather than private, and then left alone”.
She argued that the academic establishment resembled a “cartel” built around the values of “white rich men”, with curricula and standards that disadvantaged staff and students from minority backgrounds.
This raised questions about academic opposition to initiatives such as the TEF, Ms Vieru said.
“Students and staff should be allies in working to establish the thriving academic communities they want to see,” she said. “But I can’t help but notice that calls to unite and resist marketisation often oppose metrics for metrics’ sake and refuse to be reflective or recognise the oppression in the system they are trying to protect.”