Jo Johnson announced significant changes to the Teaching Excellence Framework metrics at the Universities UK conference. Previously, ratings depended on students’ views of teaching, assessment and academic support from the National Student Survey, drop-out rates, and rates of employment and further study. The changes will include a halving of the NSS’s weighting within the metrics and a focus instead on the longitudinal educational outcomes (based on graduate earnings).

These changes were outlined in a government report entitled Lessons Learned, which draws on findings from the introduction of the TEF over the past two years.

The revisions, however, could impact badly on UEA’s rating under the TEF framework. The university tends to do well in terms of student satisfaction, yet does not score as highly on graduate earnings. In fact, the NSS was crucial in UEA’s successful upgrade to a Gold standard in the ratings (the only successful appeal out of the 18 lodged, including those of several Russell Group universities).

In its appeal statement, the university stated UEA “is the only mainstream English university to have been ranked in the top five for student satisfaction since the survey began in 2005”.

Contrastingly, UEA scores below the median average for graduate earnings in several subjects, including English and Economics.

Commenting on these revisions, SU Undergraduate Officer Mary Leishman was critical of the move to reduce the weighting of NSS, stating that it “halved the importance of the student voice and made the TEF even less about teaching than it was before”.

These criticisms have been prevalent throughout general opinions of the TEF, with some even arguing that the new focus on graduate earnings will benefit Russell Group universities disproportionally.

These universities tend to have higher graduate earnings, yet consistently score badly on student satisfaction.

Ms. Leishman remains focused on student opinion, however, and UEA is currently “working with 20 other SUs to research what students count as teaching excellence”.

Speaking to Concrete, Prof David Richardson, UEA’s Vice Chancellor, said he was not surprised by the annoucement.

“I think it was always clear that the starting point for TEF would be to use data that is currently available, in the NSS was clearly there and they were able to use it when setting TEF up on a fairly tight time frame

It was always clear as TEF evolved they would begin to use other kinds of data.

What I would like to see is more work done on how you capture teaching excellence. Thereís a number of people grappling with how you actually do judge teaching excellence.

I personally donít think te itself can be judged on what the graduate salaries are. I don’t think thatís necessarily a measure of TEF, I think some thinking needs to be done around that.”

What do you think?