TEF 2018: the results are in

The gamble of re-submission has paid off for some institutions, but others have failed to improve their scores

A fresh round of teaching excellence framework (TEF) results were published on the 6th June and some higher education institutions clearly saw an opportunity to improve last year’s scores and applied for re-submission. Its gamble that only paid off for a few though.

It is likely that tweaks to the assessment methodology this year, including halving the weighing of NUS scores and placing greater emphasis on graduate earnings potential, were seen as potentially beneficial for Russell Group institutions that underperformed last year.

For some, the gambit was worth it. Liverpool and Southampton, two Russell Group members who were graded the lowest score of silver last year, boosted their score to gold, the highest rating. After the rating last year, Sir Christopher Snowden, Southampton’s VC claimed that the TEF was “fundamentally flawed” and it lacked “value or credibility”. It’s unclear whether his feelings on it remain the same. 

Two other Russell Group universities, Durham and York, also had cause for celebration, having bumped up their scores from silver to gold.

Others, though, were not so lucky. The University of Warwick failed to improve last year’s sliver rating; and Soas, University of London, a world famous institution, was unable to shift its stubborn bronze rating. 

Deborah Johnson, pro-director of teaching and learning at Soas, has previously complained of a “London effect” that adversely impacts TEF ratings as the cost of living in the capital potentially reduces institutions’ satisfaction and student retention rates.

The TEF is shaping thinking about teaching and focusing on outcomes for students in a way that I think is really healthy

This effect might also explain why the London School of Politics and Economics, the UK’s fifth-best ranked institution, elected to abstain from this years’ TEF. It is now the only Russell Group institution to hold a bronze rating. 

Chris Husbands, chair of the TEF and vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, was confident that the ratings represent a stable benchmark and played down the impact of the changing methodology. “A shift in rating reflects the panel’s judgement on the performace of the institution as it was presented to us this year. TEF is a point-in-time judgement.” 

After this year’s results, 23% of institutions now hold a gold rating, whilst 50% have a sliver and 27% a bronze. This represents a slight shift from last year where 26% were awarded gold, 50% a sliver, and 24% a bronze. Either this fall in golds awarded represents a more rigorous criteria, or an increasing dissatisfaction with the TEF and its methodologies by institutions. 

Professor Husbands, though, remained convinced of its validity as a measurement, arguing “The TEF is shaping thinking about teaching and focusing on outcomes for students in a way that I think is really healthy.” 

For the full TEF results, visit: www.officeforstudents.org.uk