'Almost all' English universities to join TEF, while most Scottish institutions to opt out
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After years of debating over its necessity, “almost all” of the UK’s universities have decided to participate in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), said Universities minister Jo Johnson.

Before this, many institutions had held off from joining the framework due to concerns over the impact of ratings on tuition fees and student intake.

The TEF will be entering its second year, and participating universities will be evaluated based on student satisfaction, student retention, and graduate employment. Each institution will then be awarded a rating of gold, silver, or bronze.

According to a Times Higher Education survey, three-quarters of the 20 English universities in the Russell Group said they would definitely join the TEF, with another two expected to opt in. The Russell Group is a collective of the UK’s top research universities.

It was also reported that four universities had, at the time, declined to confirm whether or not they would participate in the TEF, namely the University of Manchester, the University of Oxford, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Southampton.

Asked to comment on the survey’s results, Johnson said that it was “good news” that nearly all English universities have agreed to take part in the TEF.

While English universities appear to be on board with the TEF for the most part, in Scotland it’s quite the opposite: two-thirds of the country’s institutions are refusing to participate, reported the Times.

Based on information from its sources, who hold senior positions in the sector, the paper said that only six of Scotland’s 19 universities will say ‘yes’ to the TEF.

The sources also indicated that Scottish universities are declining from joining the TEF after testing its methodology, preferring the country’s own assessment system that is currently in place.

Ever since the TEF was first introduced, it has faced much criticism from the sector, especially over its role in the “marketisation of higher education”.

Many of its detractors also say that its indicators won’t effectively measure teaching quality.

Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University (OU), wrote in an article that OU will not join the TEF for now, as the framework “would not reflect” the university’s teaching excellence.

Horrocks said the TEF could have a negative impact on the students that the university typically attracts and create a barrier for social mobility.

“The last thing we want, in order to look good in the TEF tables, is to have to change our entry requirements and narrow our student intake.

“We believe that it could discriminate against them (and potential future students like them) for who they are rather than how they are taught and what they really achieve,” he added.

Under the TEF, universities who obtain a gold rating will be allowed to raise tuition fees in line with inflation.

To protest this move, the National Union of Students (NUS) is currently running a campaign for students to boycott the National Student Survey (NSS), which will be used to measure student satisfaction in the TEF.

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