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TEF Year Two: the equality challenge

Published: 13/02/2017

New TEF Year Two briefing note from ECU - February 2017

Working with TEF Year TwoAs the House of Lords continues its scrutiny of the Higher Education and Research Bill – and its establishment of a new Office for Students to administer the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) –  over 200 institutions have already completed their TEF Year Two submissions and are awaiting results in the spring.

Equality Challenge Unit maintains that equality of opportunity for a diverse range of students must be at the forefront of discussions around excellence in teaching, learning and student outcomes. This is not just about commitment to the widening participation agenda, but also ensuring that each university considers its responsibilities under the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010.

We wrote earlier last year about the importance of the TEF considering the whole student journey in terms of different protected characteristics. We also raised some concerns about the split metric technical specifications: including the lack of disaggregation of ethnicity categories, and a flagging and benchmarking system which should be used with caution in equality discussions.  We are pleased to see that some further disaggregation of black and minority ethnic (BME) has been provided for institutions in their datasets, but challenges remain in using the TEF as a tool to understand – and communicate to future students – the variety of student experiences, particularly in relation to understanding attainment gaps.

In particular ECU advises institutions who have received positive flags in relation to national benchmarking to be wary of complacency:  the sector as a whole has much work to do. Equality of opportunity must be considered in the context of an institution’s ongoing commitments and strategies, with a focus on eliminating gaps between students with different characteristics.

We have today provided a briefing note for institutions on equality challenges and opportunities in regards to the TEF Year Two.  In particular we provide:

  • suggested points of engagement with the TEF timetable for those with institutional responsibilities for equality and diversity
  • reflective questions for institutions around engagement, data, communications and provider submission, particularly in preparation for the publication of TEF 2 results
  • details of ECU resources to assist with inclusive learning and teaching, student data analysis, and Charters engagement

We welcome feedback from institutions on these points: we would particularly welcome examples as to how institutions are approaching the TEF from an equalities perspective. Please email ECU’s Senior Policy Adviser Jessica Moody with your examples or contact Jessica on Twitter @ECUJessM.


The briefing note is available to our subscribers and the universities and colleges we are funded to support, from the ECU website.