Summertime manoeuvres

Isn’t the summer supposed to be the time when the living is easy, fish are jumping and the cotton is high? Two recent posts suggest that the recently proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is stirring a lot of thinking and calls for action across the sector:

In a post on the WonkHE site – http://www.wonkhe.com/blogs/removing-the-fuzzy-edges-from-the-tef/ – Gordon Mckenzie, the Chief executive of the GuildHE, one of the two recognised representative bodies for Higher education (according to its website), discusses the TEF and makes the following important points:

  • The TEF seems likely to use a series of metrics, some of which already exist and others that currently don’t.
  • Ones that already exist could include
    • recruitment data: students’ prior qualifications, the socio-economic background of students, teaching qualifications of staff
    • Graduation data: NSS and DLHE data
  • Ones that need developing are perhaps around “learning gain”
  • The government call for help and guidance in constructing the TEF has been welcomed and the opportunity seized.
  • Jo Johnson, the Minister in charge of this project, wants something that is “cyclical, external, independent’ and open to peer review.

Mckenzie argues for the need to find a system which is at once sector wide and at the same time responsive to the local circumstances of the individual institution. One suggestion is to have a series of common indicators across all institutions and then allow individual institutions to add others, perhaps from a list of options. He ends is post with the observation that “If collectively, we get it right then students will benefit. The findings from the HEPI/HEA 2015 Student Academic Experience Survey show there is still some way to go to convince students they are getting value from university teaching. An effective TEF can help accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives for students.”

Alongside this the THE published an article from the new HEA Chair, professor Rama Thirunamachandran -see https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/new-hea-chair-paying-members-could-enshrine-it-professional-body – in which the prospect of the HEA becoming the professional body for higher education academics involved in teaching was again discussed. The article linked the change in the HEA’s role with the introduction of a membership fee for individuals (as well as the institutional fee currently charged).

There will be much debate about this and the article suggests some opposing ideas. Perhaps the biggest issue though will be the tension between a TEF that seems to require academics to have teaching qualifications and the body that runs this scheme who see it as a voluntary professional body. This debate has already happened in the schools sector and the General Teaching Council now no longer exists.

There is still much to discuss before the government produces its Green paper but the lines of argument are becoming clear, its just that an agreement seems a long way off just yet.