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TEF Tick Tock: Last chance to prepare

With next week's public announcement of Teaching Excellence Framework's Year Two results, Jess Moody's blog highlights it’s not too late to ensure your university is using the framework as a useful tool in equality work.

With the public announcement of Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Year Two results next week (14 June), it’s not too late to ensure your university is using TEF as a useful tool in equality work, rather than a cause for complacency in the battle against barriers to student success.

Your institution’s written submission and metrics will be available for all to see – prospective students, current students, teaching and support staff.  Questions will be asked about positive and negative ‘flags’ (performance against benchmarks) relating to measures of ‘teaching excellence’ as experienced by different student characteristics (ethnicity, disability, gender and age). But it’s also important to remember that even when there’s no clear warning sign given about, say, your BME students’ satisfaction scores, it might not be too hard to spot absolute differences in experiences in the metrics.

Your university community and prospective students will also be looking to your written statements about how you’re tackling barriers for different groups, and asking probing questions about how this relates to those issues not (currently) included in TEF metrics but vital to their overall degree experience: attainment gaps, a sense of belonging in the curricula, and access to career-enhancing opportunities like placements and internships and study abroad.

In our January briefing we outlined the background of the TEF, highlighted some of its uses and limitations, and included some key reflective questions for universities.

Since that briefing the Higher Education & Research Act 2017 has been enacted, and this together with the timing of the general election has meant a few updates regarding TEF namely:

  • Institutions will receive notification of their TEF results from Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on 12 June 2017 (under embargo) and public dissemination of results will take place on 14 June 2017. TEF results will also be published by Unistats and UCAS for the attention of prospective applicants. Full details of the dissemination process can be found on the HEFCE TEF webpages.
  • Subject-level TEF (beyond a pilot) will be postponed to 2019/20 (TEF 5).
  • Differential fees linked to TEF levels are ruled out until 2020/21.
  • A ‘lessons learned’ report with far reaching powers of review will take place in academic year 2019/20.

Regardless of these changes though, with the TEF journey next week, now is the last chance to ensure you know the answer to the following:

  • Who in your institution has seen your TEF submissions and metrics? How can you ensure the flags and statements don’t come as a surprise to those involved in student equality, diversity, inclusion issues (including student representatives)? How can you educate your community on the limitations and origins of the data?
  • How does TEF meaningfully fit into your strategy and messaging around equality and diversity? Who is accountable for tackling poor outcomes for specific student groups?
  • What are the risks of overreliance of TEF to highlight equality ‘issues’? How will your institution ensure you can fully understand differential outcomes (‘gaps’ between different ethnicities, genders, ages, disabilities etc.)?
  • How will you engage students and staff in conversations about results, and future plans for TEF?

Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) will be reviewing the TEF outcomes to understand how student equality and diversity issues are being considered as key element of each institution’s awards, and to consider lessons for the future.

ECU welcomes your feedback on your experiences of the TEF, and looks forward to hearing how the results effect your understanding and direction of student diversity and inclusion in the learning and teaching environment.