English vice-chancellors have called on ministers to reconsider whether to push ahead with the subject-level version of the teaching excellence framework, amid warnings that it could push the cost of the exercise as high as £37.6 million – equivalent to £246,000 per provider.
As it made its submission to the independent review of the TEF being led by Dame Shirley Pearce, Universities UK said that the cost of the current assessment, which makes judgements at institutional level, was around £4.1 million.
However, the addition of discipline-specific evaluations, which are being piloted this year before being implemented in 2019-20, could massively increase the workload and cost faced by universities, according to UUK.
Under the current TEF, universities can submit a 15-page written submission alongside student outcome metrics, which are used to determine their final rating of gold, silver or bronze. Under the subject-level TEF, they will also be able to submit a common two-page provider summary for panels making discipline-level judgements, plus a five-page statement for each subject area, of which there are 35.
This means that a university submitting the maximum number of submissions at the maximum length could hand in 193 pages of information, once a one-page submission on part-time students is included.
A UUK report, The Future of the TEF, published on 25 January, says that around 4,000 submissions could be compiled across the sector.
Providers with more than 500 students will be required to take part in the subject-level TEF. An estimate by the Office for Students, which operates the assessment, says that, based on the 229 institutions in this category taking part, the total cost to providers would be £15.9 million, or £69,000 per provider. If all 426 institutions that are eligible to participate took part, the cost would be £23.8 million, or £56,000 per provider.
But UUK’s analysis, which includes an estimate of the number and cost of the days put into producing TEF submissions, suggests that the cost could be as high as £37.6 million. This does not include ongoing investments made to support improvements in areas assessed by the TEF.
UUK says that the government should not proceed with the subject-level TEF until its costs and its value have been “fully considered”.
Debra Humphris, vice-chancellor of the University of Brighton and chair of UUK’s student policy network, said that the subject-level TEF could “add complexity and considerable cost burdens to institutions”.
“This in turn could force a diversion of resource away from other investment programmes from which students benefit more clearly,” she said.
Print headline: Call for rethink of TEF as cost put at £38m
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