What should students know about the TEF?

Earlier this month, Redwan Shahid, Vice President Education, attended a keynote seminar that looked at the next steps for developing the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The TEF assesses excellence in teaching at universities and colleges and is supposed to be used to assist prospective students choose where to study. He sat down and spoke with us about what the event was about and what information Queen Mary students should know! 

What was the event about?

The event was a keynote seminar hosted by The Westminster Higher Education Forum titled: ‘Next steps for developing the Teaching Excellence Framework’. It had various high profile panellists and attendees such as Dame Shirley Pearce (Lead for the independent review of TEF), Professor Janice Kay (Deputy Chair of the TEF panel) and Graeme Rosenberg (TEF manager from Office for Students). It set out to explore the progression of TEF so far, as well as to evaluate the success of the project. It also drew upon various anecdotal and professional expertise of the panellists to offer an insight into the methodology and if it’s suitable for students. 

How were you involved and why?

I was invited as a student representative on a panel that looked at the utility of the TEF exercise, with a particular focus on measuring teaching excellence and informing student voice. I sat on a panel alongside various senior people from other universities and colleges. With the increasing focus on student voice, it was appropriate to invite student representatives to talk about the process and what works and what doesn’t, particularly as these are conversations I have regularly with our university’s senior management within my role as VP Education.

What should students know about what was covered?

We discussed to what extent we believed that students used the TEF ranking systems for picking an institution to study at. UCAS representatives delivered the results of the survey, in which the results seemed to suggest that students used TEF when deciding on a university. However, I think my favourite quote was when someone compared TEF to Brexit, in that ‘students are aware of it, but do they know the ins and outs of the processes’. I spoke about the usefulness of TEF, but with the Government and the Office for Students struggling to define the underlying purpose of what the TEF does, it’s hard to engage those students. Also, if you look at the information that students are given, it’s vastly over-simplified and it’s hard to communicate exactly what is being measured to all students. Students aren’t being given the right depth of the data that they need to effectively use it.

What was your take-home message from the event?

There is a lot of assumed knowledge that is passed on to the students. I think the way some of the conversations around TEF are framed in a way that completely ignores the social context that many students who enter higher education come from. The demographic of students attending universities have been changing quite rapidly in recent years and we can't situate “teaching excellence” solely on statistics. One of the recurring comments was about how some of the measures are not the best adapted, so we need to acknowledge and understand the subjective nature of TEF, as well as integrating the student voice in more effectively.