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/)

Digital Publishing, General

An end to literary discrimination? Changes to the VAT rate for e-books announced

Earlier this week, a historic decision was made that could pave the way for more changes worldwide on the equality of print and digital publishing.
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council decided on Tuesday at a meeting in Luxembourg to allow EU Member States to align the VAT rates they set for e‑publications with those for printed publications.

The EU commission had suggested a reform back in December 2016; the European Parliament voted in favour of this change in June 2017. Tuesday’s decision is now the final step to ensure that the unequal treatment of the two product formats becomes a thing of the past.

The Publishers Associations of the UK, France, Italy, Sweden and Germany all welcomed the VAT statement; so did the European Publishers Council (EPC). Rudy Vanschoonbeek, President of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), said in his statement: This forward-looking decision marks the end of the unjustified fiscal discrimination between publications in different formats, acknowledging the cultural, social and economic value of books, journals and educational materials in all formats and the technological progress that has taken place in the sector.”
Michiel Kolman, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA) is hoping thatother regions follow these great examples of reducing barriers to books.”

The German government has already issued a statement as part of their current coalition agreement in favour of this innovation, so it is to be expected that the changes will be implemented in Germany soon. The current political situation in the UK might not trigger an immediate response for the implementation of such a change, though the Publishers’ Association had written to the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, ahead of the Luxembourg meeting to lobby for changes to the way digital publications are taxed.
Steven Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, has called for the British government to act now: “We are leaving the EU but today’s decision from the ECOFIN committee removes a major obstacle for the UK Chancellor, who should now do away with this tax at the earliest opportunity – namely the Budget on October 29. If the UK does not act quickly it risks the UK digital policy falling behind its European competitors.”

Let’s hope we will see some movement on this soon!