Since the announcement of TEF results in June, the publishing industry has been relatively quiet on this subject (partly because of summer holidays). However, the Higher Education sector has been very busy during this period.
First of all, the TEF’s official name has changed from “Teaching Excellence Framework” to “Teaching Excellence and Student Outcome Framework”, though the acronym is to remain ‘TEF’. A “lessons learned from year 2” document was published in September, and the year 3 framework was announced earlier this month. In addition to these developments, a pilot on subject level TEF has been set up, to run during the current academic year; 30-40 institutions are involved. However, none of the results from this exercise (or names of participating institutions) will be published.
The changes identified via the “lessons learned” document are to be implemented immediately in the TEF year 3 round. The most striking of these is certainly the decision to cut the significance of the NSS results by 50%. It could have a direct impact on the many prestigious institutions which this year were disappointed to receive Silver or Bronze, largely owing to bad NSS results. It may be possible for some of these institutions to re-apply and be rewarded with a better outcome in 2018. Another factor that might contribute to better results (and has been campaigned for by the Russell Group and others) is the introduction of benchmarking, which will help institutions where metric data did not give a true picture of life on campus, especially at institutions with high levels of part-time students, such as the Open University.
To offset the reduction in contribution of the NSS results, there will be three new main additions to the data collected for year 3: the inclusion of grade inflation metrics (the details of this to be confirmed); numbers of student contact hours (as a weighted metric); and the inclusion of Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data (more about this in a future post). All these changes signal a move away from trying to measure student satisfaction and towards the capture of more concrete outcome data.
…and then there’s KEF: at the HEFCE conference 2 weeks ago, Jo Johnson (Minister for Universities and Science) announced the introduction of a third framework, to sit along the REF and the TEF. The Knowledge Exchange Framework is being introduced to measure knowledge transfer and commercial outcomes, and will be yet another metric that universities will have to get their heads round.
What does all this mean for publishers and the book trade?
As was discussed at the ABT conference last May, there is a strong imperative for publishers and booksellers to lobby for more influence in contributing to the TEF – especially now that the focus has moved away from NSS results: the newly introduced metrics have less direct relevance to the information sector. However, the impact of content, data and information provision on the quality of teaching cannot be denied, and it is only right to assert that the voices of those in our industry should be heard when such a key initiative is in progress. The Office for Students (OfS) – the new regulatory body for Higher Education, which will start taking charge in 2018 – is proposing from 2019 to make the TEF compulsory for all Higher Education Institutions that have more than 500 students. This is one more reason why publishers and booksellers should not underestimate the importance of the TEF for UK universities, but be willing to explore all possible opportunities to take an active role.