TEF rankings ‘statistically unreliable’ – RSS

The Royal Statistical Society releases ‘technical concerns’ over the education benchmark, claiming ‘students are being misled’

The Royal Statistical Society has penned a damning letter condemning the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which it claims is “statistically unreliable and untrustworthy”.

Sent to the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) and the TEF review led by Dame Shirley Pearce, the RSS letter, signed by RSS president Deborah Ashby and vice-president Guy Nason, claims that “all TEF awards made to date are invalid” owing to statistical bad practice.


From the archive: When it was introduced in 2017, the Teaching Excellence Framework was broadly welcomed


The letter says: “Using a single test critical value instead of a multiple test value is a serious statistical mistake, which will result in far too many indicators being spuriously flagged. Hence, the RSS believes that all the TEF awards made so far have been based on seriously flawed inputs.”

Ashby said: “Many prospective university students rely on these rankings to help inform their choices about where to study. We are concerned that the TEF is not reliable enough to bear the weight of this and could be misleading young people making important life choices about where to study.”

Universities UK has also issued recommendations to the Independent Review of the TEF, including clarification of its governance, implementation of a “predictable cycle” and the addition of “themes focused on outcomes that are relevant to students and government”, among others.