Skip to main content

Teaching Excellent Framework: A great idea heading in the wrong direction



It's TEF day.  A day that few people have really been looking forward to, mainly because there are unlikely to be many winner - but there sure as hell will be a lot of losers.

When the whole TEF idea was announced, there were many aspects of it that I wholeheartedly supported.  The idea that Universities should be at least as concerned about their teaching quality as their research output was something that I cheered along with merrily.  Very quickly though, the whole plan became infected with compromises designed to over-simply a complex process by relying on just the data that already exists - rather than data actually designed to measure the very thing you are interested in.

So. In just the same way that Ofsted can downgrade a school where pupils have a less than 100% attendance (thereby penalising schools that accept sick children), the TEF measures teaching excellence on the basis of:


  • Dropout rates (penalising Universities committed to widening participation, where students are more likely to experience conflicting responsibilities of financial burdens, work and family);
  • Post-graduate employment (penalising Universities is areas of economic deprivation, where jobs are harder to come by);
  • Post-graduate earnings (both of the above)


The consequences of a poor TEF rating then, will only serve to encourage such Universities to recruit more exclusively from a traditional pool (goodbye widening participation), and to focus their delivery more exclusively on those courses with a higher statistical likelihood of returning high income and employability stats (goodbye the Arts).

Now don't get me wrong here.  I desperately want our students to succeed.  They have every bit as much right to decent jobs and decent salaries as any pasty-faced aristocrat graduating with a PPE degree from Oxford - in fact probably a great deal more (although as I said in my last post, I think this should be about more than just earnings).

The idea of the TEF is not bad in itself.  In terms of going about it the right way though, sad to say it doesn't get gold, silver, or bronze - because it started the race by running in the wrong direction.

Popular posts from this blog

2) Introduction to morphemes

So does language begin with words?

No. Language begins with sounds. It is important to understand this first and foremost. We have already raised this point, but it is worth raising again – language begins with sounds!

If I appear to be emphasizing this with a rather bizarre desperation, it is because it would be easy to think that since we are beginning our exploration of language and linguistics with words that this is where language begins. When you think about it logically though, all words are composed of various sounds grouped together. The word ‘cat’ is composed of three distinct sounds - /c/, /a/ and /t/.

So why aren’t we starting with looking at how sounds create language?

Well, in the not-too-distant past, when European football used to be free on the telly, Manchester United or Arsenal would jet off to Spain for a titanic contest with Barcelona. When the commentators referred to Barcelona, they would pronounce it ‘Bar-se-low-nah’ (bɑ:sɜ:ləʊnæ). After a few years th…

A fond farewell

Every time a new term starts, I find myself wondering what the hell happened to the supposed weeks inbetween?  We leap from teaching, to marking, to assessment boards to enrolments - and after all that, BANG!  Back in the classroom!  At which point we often start wishing there had been at least some time to prepare our classes...

But things have been rather different this time.  About a three months ago I was (admittedly to my own surprise) considered worthy enough to be offered an incredibly exciting job with the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the University of East London.  The regular whirlwind of activity over the Summer then, is having something of a more terminal period: Teaching, marking, assessment boards, enrolments and BANG! I'm walking out of Newham College for the last time!

It is now almost exactly 10 years since I joined Newham College.  The plan then was, at heart, very simple: The residents of Newham Borough represented a vast population …

Moodle looks rubbish: The myth that may be costing HE institutions

It was interesting, but not entirely surprising to read Phil Hill's blog on e-Literate suggesting a dramatic slow-down in the take-up of Moodle in HE Institutions.  Not surprising because there seems to be a myth about Moodle that has always flickered in dark corners and is fanned into flame by for-profit LMS providers at the nearest opportunity.

This myth is that Moodle looks rubbish.

Other LMS providers set up a course content page filled with as many html5 gadgets as they can imagine, and compare it to the most basic topic-format Moodle page.  "There we are!" they declare, "Look how rubbish Moodle looks compared to our system!  And in the modern world where students are using tablets and mobile phones more and more, isn't it important that your University LMS looks smart and contemporary?"

And so Universities look at these other LMS systems and think: 'Ooo, it has this, or it has that!  Our Moodle doesn't have them!'  Which in turn prompts a…