Most foreign students don't understand TEF - survey
Hobsons surveyed 3,335 international students who have expressed interest to study in the UK for the survey. Source: Shutterstock

International students are confused over several aspects of the UK’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) scheme, found a survey released by international student recruitment firm Hobsons EMEA last week.

Only 21.2 percent of the students surveyed reported understanding the TEF, with almost two-thirds of this group saying the scheme has not been very well explained to them.

Almost 80 percent (79.5 percent) held the mistaken belief the framework measures the teaching quality at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

“I’m not surprised by these results, but I’m a bit disappointed more international students aren’t familiar with the TEF,” Hobsons director of marketing & market intelligence, Paul Raybould said, as quoted by The PIE News.

“For UK institutions, it’s a huge opportunity because teaching quality is by far the biggest factor considered by students when choosing a university. If they have a clear way to see the teaching quality in the UK, it could put them above universities in the US.”

The TEF is a new controversial assessment of teaching, learning and student experience at the undergraduate level, where universities will be given a ranking of either gold, silver or bronze.

According to the Department of Education, the “Gold” rating is described as “consistently outstanding and of the highest quality found in the UK Higher Education sector”, “Silver” as “high quality, and significantly and consistently exceeds the baseline quality threshold expected of UK Higher Education” while a “Bronze” means the school provides teaching of “satisfactory quality”.

The results released last month sent shockwaves through the sector, with several top universities unexpectedly earning “Bronze” ratings while smaller and younger schools were given the coveted “Gold” prize.

While almost three quarters (72.6 percent) of those who have heard of the TEF understand how these ratings work, more than half (55.3 percent) believed “TEF results are based on random inspections of lectures and classes by inspectors from the Department for Education”.

Almost a quarter of those who know about the TEF also believe a Bronze Award means a school’s teaching quality is “unsatisfactory”.

Despite their misunderstanding over how it works, students said they would be using the scheme when weighing their options, regardless of whether they know about the TEF or not.

Both groups said they would choose a university with a Gold TEF Award over another with high rankings, but will choose the one with high rankings over a university with a Silver or Bronze Award.

Hobsons’ research surveyed 3,335 international students who have expressed interest to study in the UK.

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