Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee report on TEF

Tuesday 08-03-2016 - 12:36

The BIS Select Committee, which is a Parliamentary committee appointed to scrutinise the work of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, reported on the Government’s plans for a Teaching Excellence Framework today, in which they shared many of the concerns raised by students and their unions.

The report highlighted a number of concerns raised about linking the TEF to tuition fee levels, stating that “The weight of evidence we heard in this inquiry from the universities sector was against creating a link between TEF and tuition fees”. While the committee, made up of a majority of Conservative members, fell short of criticising the link between fees and TEF, the committee could not hide the vast opposition. The committee also warned that “the Government should be sensitive to the perception that it is students who are having to fund an increase in teaching quality”. Quite clearly, both students and universities do not believe that quality grows on fees!

The committee was far more decisive in its criticism of the use of metrics to measure teaching quality, in particular those which measure graduate employment outcomes. NUS and students’ unions have been arguing against the use of employment metrics because we know that graduate outcomes are very clearly linked to social and economic factors as well as the reputation and prestige of a university. The report concludes that “there are so many factors affecting future employment it seems to us difficult if not impossible to make a meaningful linkage to teaching quality”. NUS supports this view and hopes that such a damning criticism will lead government to change their minds on using this data.

Finally, the report highlighted the concerns of the timescale for implementing the TEF. NUS and students’ unions have questioned the Government’s motivation for implementing the TEF so quickly; we feel that it shows that they have their own ideological interests and not the interests of students and universities in mind. The select committee agreed that “it is more important to get this right than to get there quickly”, concluding that “a poorly designed or rushed TEF will not serve students, HEIs, Government or the taxpayer and could negatively affect reputations.”

The government are currently sifting through the evidence in the consultation responses on the HE Green Paper. You can read NUS’ response here. We expect a further technical consultation to be released soon to get information from institutions about how the TEF can be implemented and managed. The current timetable is for the government to respond to the consultation in May or June 2016.


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