Policy Briefing

The possibilities and pitfalls of a Teaching Excellence Framework

30 Oct 2015

Interest in high quality teaching in universities is not new. Successive governments have made commitments to improve and reward teaching excellence in a quest to ensure that students benefit from the high quality teaching that they deserve. Higher Education and Treasury Ministers have frequently found themselves balancing this interest with commitments to maintain and improve the unit of resource per student in real terms, fund additional student numbers and respond to employer demands for graduates with ‘employability’ skills – with universities and students sometimes caught in the cross-fire.

Most recently the Conservative government took office following the May 2015 general election with a manifesto commitment to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) for universities in England.

What this meant in practice was not spelt out in any detail but Ministers subsequently linked TEF outcomes with individual institutional ‘permissions’ to increase tuition fees. The TEF – and especially the link with fees – have important and wide-ranging implications for students, universities and the UK’s international standing in the higher education market. It is these wider implications, as well as some of the practical problems associated with the introduction of the TEF, that we have sought to explore in this policy briefing.



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