Laurie Taylor – 25 May 2017

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

May 25, 2017
Dodo and March hare
Source: Alamy

Here we go again!

Although this newsletter has done more than its level best to keep readers informed about the progress of the exciting new teaching excellence framework, it appears that not everyone is fully cognisant of recent developments. We are therefore only too pleased to offer an updated Q and A guide to the progress of this major government initiative.

Would you remind me of the sophisticated ways in which the TEF will measure such a complex matter as teaching quality?

It will look at the number of students who fail to complete their courses.

Even though students abandon their courses for a variety of reasons?

There is that. But then, as you will remember, it will gain a further insight into teaching quality by looking at the jobs that students acquire after leaving university.

Even though students acquire good jobs as the result of a variety of reasons?

There is that. But then, as you will remember, it will gain yet another insight into teaching quality by looking at the results of the National Student Survey.

Even though research shows that the NSS is biased against women and members of ethnic minorities?

There is that.

And don’t we also know that the student boycott of the NSS has recently forced its organisers, Ipsos Mori, to reopen the survey at those universities that have failed to meet the 50 per cent threshold?

There is that. But if Ipsos Mori fails to get enough forms completed, then according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the TEF will use the average NSS scores from the previous three years.

But won’t they be seriously outdated?

There is that. But you’re forgetting one critical thing.

What’s that?

When Jo Johnson, the retiring minister for higher education, went in search of yet another device to increase competitiveness between universities, he was never going to be deterred by such minor considerations as validity and reliability.

But aren’t the leading members of the academic community supposed to be committed to just such principles?

There is that. But in recent years those leading members of academia have strictly adhered to another major principle.

What’s that?

A principled readiness to roll over in the face of any scheme whatsoever that will allow them to once more increase their fees.

So, does all this emphasis on the TEF mean that research is now of secondary importance?

Absolutely. So much so that universities such as Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan and Aberystwyth are already busy sacking academics. According to Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, “Maybe [some universities] think they’re too research focused and not enough teaching focused and they just need to rebalance things in some ways.”

Is there any possibility that the minister who presided over this shambles will, in the event of a Conservative election victory, retain his ministerial position?

Unless he is challenged by someone of higher intellectual calibre.

Such as?

Opinion is currently split between the claims of the March Hare and the Dodo.

lolsoc@dircon.co.uk

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