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By Bhadra Sreejith
The Teaching Excellence Framework will be one of the features of the higher education and research bill, which will go to committee stage next month. This will rank universities’ educational quality as either gold, silver, or bronze, based on criteria which include “teaching quality”, “learning environment” and “student outcomes & learning gain”.
The rankings, which are widely based on the National Student Survey, are not expected to be favourable to the LSE, which was the lowest-scoring major university in the 2016 edition of the survey. It was announced that universities, including the LSE – would be able to charge fees of £9,250 per year from the 2017/18 academic year. In order for the LSE to increase fees further, it will have to subscribe to the second stage of the TEF, which it has not yet done.
In June, the Times Higher Education Survey modelled how the LSE would fare under the TEF: it came 81st out of 120 universities, rated bronze. Bronze rankings are reserved for universities where “provision is of satisfactory quality” but where “the provider is likely to be significantly below benchmark in one or more areas.” The top ranking universities are likely to be Loughborough and Aston, who will receive a mark of “gold” quality education.
Universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, and Imperial could lose out on their current “elite” status due to the possibility that the TEF might not be favourable to them, either, reducing the number of bright international students they could attract–international students who pay far higher fees than home students. This could offset the benefit of increasing fees for universities, especially for the LSE, where 70% of students are international.
The National Union of Students will be opposing the TEF due to the proposed fee increases. In a statement made to the Guardian, Sorana Vieru, NUS vice-president for higher education, said that: “NUS will be coordinating a national boycott of the National Student Survey unless the government drops its plans for the TEF and the rise in fees.” A boycott of the NSS would make it difficult for the TEF to take place, given how dependent it is on the metrics measured in the survey.
“It is clear: TEF is bad news for LSE students, and Higher Education in general. It only ensures that we will pay more year on year, all while branding the LSE and the education we receive here as third-rate,” said Jasmina Bidé, Education Officer, in an email that went out to all LSE students. The LSESU is actively campaigning against this bill, calling it “bad news for both LSE students and higher education”.
The Higher Education bill is estimated to have a net benefit of 1126 million. However, Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Oxford, found that this increase in net benefit could just as easily be achieved if all institutions were allowed to raise their fees in line with inflation. The primary purpose of the bill appears to be to allow universities to raise their fees, not to improve teaching quality. This becomes even more evident when it is seen that the TEF doesn’t make it compulsory for universities to invest the additional money from the increase in fees in improving teaching quality. The TEF is supposed to be in the interest of university students, but it is students who will be footing the bill.