Digital Publishing, TEF

While we’re on the subject…

Last week, the Office for Students released some reports and initial findings on the subject-level TEF. What are the conclusions and what does it mean for publishers?

In parallel with the third round of the current TEF, the Office for Students conducted a pilot phase for a subject-level TEF, working with 50 different universities, colleges and other HE providers. (A list of participating institutions has been published by the OfS, but the ratings awarded remain confidential). This first pilot will be followed by a second round of pilots in 2019 to refine the process. The plan is to abolish the current TEF after its forth instalment in summer 2019 and initiate the subject-level TEF in 2020 (application phase) with the first round of results being published in spring 2021.

In the pilot, two different models were being tried, and the conclusion has been made that – despite neither of the models being fully fit for purpose – a “bottom-up” approach was being favoured, though the final model is likely to be a bit of a mix of “bottom-up” and “top-down”. This means that all subjects are being assessed as part of a ‘subject group’ submission but with separate metrics for each subject, and each subject receives a TEF rating of Bronze, Silver or Gold. The subject ratings then feed into the provider-level assessment, which is still being carried out separately.
The diagram below might be helpful in illustrating this:

STEFdiagram

(Source: Office for Students)

One major factor in the lessons learned from the pilot is the need to involve students in the process – after all, the TEF is supposed to be all about students’ experience and their learning outcomes! It has been confirmed that in future rounds the students’ voice will play a more prominent role. This is where it becomes interesting for publishers of learning content, because one of the main concerns the students expressed in the feedback session was that the quality and availability of Learning Resources should be measured and carry a greater weight in the TEF scoring.
As a result a new metric for learning resources will be included in future instalments of the TEF.

Unfortunately, the Publishers’ Association doesn’t seem to have been able to get involved in this (we are aware that attempts by the PA had been made and rejected), but thankfully the students seem to be the advocates for their libraries and ultimately the publishing community – they have realised what an important part the provision of learning resources plays in measuring teaching quality.

(All reports and publications can be found of the OfS website: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/teaching-excellence-and-student-outcomes-framework-findings-from-the-first-subject-pilot-2017-18/)

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