The TEF - raising teaching standards, or raising a petting zoo?

Monday 28-11-2016 - 17:00

Luke Renwick, Education Officer at Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union and a member of NUS’ Higher Education Zone Committee, writes about his university’s nonsense approach to the Teaching Excellence Framework which fails to relate to quality.

Has your university management ever been that desperate to increase tuition fees that they'll literally open up a petting zoo to achieve it? It seems that Sheffield Hallam University are certainly getting that way…

Universities are being forced to make a choice between adopting/opting in to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) or not, and it is creating fierce debate between university management and students' unions across the country.

This is especially true here at Sheffield Hallam University where our vice chancellor, Chris Husbands, is the Chair of the National TEF Board. On the one side, you have students arguing that the TEF is simply a way of the government allowing tuition fee hikes every single year from now on, and on the other side you have Chris Husbands stating that the TEF will, "build on existing high standards of learning and teaching" and can be measured and rewarded through metrics such as the National Student Survey (NSS).

So who's right? Short answer - the students (of course).

Last week, I was asked to attend a frantically set up meeting called ‘Mission Immediate: NSS Task Force’ at short notice by staff in the higher ranks of Sheffield Hallam University.

Despite the fact I was struggling to take the name seriously, what happened at the meeting really does reveal the true nature of what the TEF fosters.

The minutes of the meeting cited firstly the “essential” name change to ‘Mission Immediate: SWOT Team’ (I wish I was joking), before moving onto working out ways in which the university could make short-term changes to positively boost their NSS scores in the hope of gaining a better TEF score, meaning they could increase their fees by more.

So what did the team suggest? Allowing students to "pet animals before exams”, giving them “free tea and coffee” and “pizza evenings with students to show we're listening to them".

How can anyone argue that the TEF is correctly measuring teaching excellence when Sheffield Hallam University, one of its loudest and proudest advocates, is clearly evidencing that the results can be manipulated by something as simple as tea, pizza, and a petting zoo?

Is this what Chris Husbands meant when he said the TEF would, "build on high standards of learning and teaching"?

I'm going to hope not - but the reality is that he is advocating for a system which will never reflect, promote, or nurture teaching quality or excellence, and his own institution has just proven this.




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