Can you TEFF off?

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On November the 6th, the Conservative government released a green paper outlaying its plans for Higher Education called the Teaching Excellent Framework (TEF) that will see leading universities being able to increase tuition fees.

The TEF has been described as the biggest shake up of Higher Education since the introduction of tuition fees twenty years ago, with a proposal of a new way to monitor excellence of teaching at universities, as well as the removal of certain quangos that monitor teaching.

The Department of Business, Skills and Innovation outlined its plan to start monitoring and accrediting teaching at universities and to establish them in certain bands. If a university’s teaching is considered excellent, it will be able to increase its tuition fees. It also hints that staff promotions will be linked to their quality of teaching.

TEF will use certain criteria to monitor a university’s teaching, such as National Student Survey results, graduate destinations, and retention rate.

The green paper also outlined the government’s plan to remove existing organisations that currently oversee university teaching and funding, called HEFCE and QAA, which will be replaced with a government department called the Office for Students.

Jo Johnson, the Minister for Higher Education said the changes were needed because the high international reputation of British universities masked inconsistencies. “While there is a lot of excellence, there is also, as the sector acknowledges, patchiness and variability in and between institutions. We’re helping the sector address that patchiness so we drive up the quality of teaching for everybody.

“Students should come out of their university years feeling they’ve got value for money for their time there. Unfortunately, there are too many students coming out feeling that they haven’t, and I want to address that.

“We have too many people coming out of university and winding up in non-graduate jobs.” Jo Johnson continued. “It’s the role of our universities to equip people to fulfil their potential and to participate fully in society, whether going on to further study or going into great professions such as teaching or other graduate jobs.”

The Shadow Education Secretary Gordon Marsden has slated the paper, calling it a Trojan horse for increased tuition fees and “brings the danger of creating a two-tier system that could brand some universities as second class.”

Megan Dunn, the National Union of Students President, was quick to condemn the changes, saying “Teaching should always be a key focus of higher education, but the NUS is adamant the teaching excellence framework should not be linked to an increase in fees. Students should not be treated like consumers.”

The changes outlined, however, were not as extreme as many people within the sector feared. The green paper failed to mention the effect on part- time students at universities. Part- time students have seen a significant decrease in enrolment at universities since the introduction of the 9k fees three years ago in 2012.

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Tommy Parker is Editor-in-Chief (2016/17) and former Students' Union Community Officer (2014/15). He writes about gaming, equality issues and the University of Bath.

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