The London School of Economics has decided not to re-enter the teaching excellence framework (TEF) this year after being awarded the lowest grade of the podium, a Bronze, last year. The decision has been confirmed to The Beaver by a spokesperson of the School.
The TEF, which is administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and was introduced last year by the previous government, is a new ranking framework which aims to “recognise and reward excellence in teaching, learning, and outcomes, and to help inform prospective student choice”, as described on its website. Its primary goal is to help prospective students in their university choice.
The TEF assesses primarily the quality of undergraduate teaching in universities and other degree providers, focusing on three areas: teaching quality, learning environment, and student outcomes. The metrics used to measure these areas are the National Student Survey, the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education survey and Non-Continuation Rates. All the information is then processed by an independent TEF assessment panel – made up of students, experts, and academics – which awards each university either gold, silver or bronze ratings.
LSE last year, together with other universities part of the Russell Group such as the University of Liverpool and the University of Southampton, received a bronze award – one of the biggest upsets of the new ranking, considering the School in 2017 was rated second in the QS global ranking for social sciences.
This new ranking is particularly relevant because all the universities that applied to it and got an award, have government permission to increase tuition fees in line with inflation – a move that brought tuition fees up by 250 pounds per year in the 2017/18 academic year, reaching a high of £9,250.
Despite a change in methodology from the previous year – specifically, the decision to use figures on graduate earnings from the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset, which is likely to benefit Russell Group universities whose alumni earn higher incomes – the London School of Economics has decided not to re-submit for the TEF this year.
A spokesperson for the School told The Beaver that: “The School is wholly committed to improving teaching and the student experience. It is our top priority. We do not believe, however, a resubmission to the TEF at this stage would fully capture the benefits of the activity taking place.”
The decision mirrors the word of 2016/2017 Interim Director Professor Julia Black, who commented on the bronze award by answering that, despite having room for improvement in many sectors, the many strengths of the School – namely, the exceptional graduate record – are not captured by the TEF metrics and not taken into considerations. The LSE Students’ Union also campaigned against the use of the TEF last year.
LSE has not been the only university to speak against the metric used by the TEF: many universities have critiqued the system as unfair and unreliable, accusing it of reporting a subjective estimate, not based on any meaningful assessment of teaching. Critics have also pointed out how the system didn’t take into consideration the so-called “London effect” – namely, a higher cost of living compared to universities outside the city – which resulted in one in three London-based institutions getting a bronze, compared to just one in eight outside London.
Nevertheless, universities such as the University of Southampton and SOAS, the University of London have decided to re-enter the UK’s teaching excellence framework, even after falling short last year. Some other universities have followed their choice in the hope of getting a higher award.