The University of Exeter has been awarded a Gold rating in the new Teaching Excellence Framework, making it one of eight Russell Group universities to obtain the highest TEF rating.
The panel based its decision on factors such as class sizes, contact hours, and support for independent research and study. In its findings, the TEF panel particularly praised the university’s high levels of student satisfaction, as well as the “very high” proportion of students continuing into further study or highly skilled employment. It also found that the university was committed to helping students from all backgrounds.
Further, the adjudication praised the university’s “strategic approach to embedding consistency of experience for all students”, and its use of “management information to enhance student opportunities and achievement, embedded across the institution”.
Toby Gladwin, Students’ Guild President, said: “We are delighted that the University of Exeter has been rated Gold in delivering exceptional teaching. TEF is a fundamental priority and the Students’ Guild has been actively involved in the teaching excellence journey here at Exeter, helping to shape the outstanding academic community. We look forward to continuing to improve our students’ experience and the opportunities this presents”.
Implemented by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Students, TEF is an assessment of teaching quality offered by providers of higher education, ie. universities and colleges. Awards are made with a Gold, Silver, or Bronze rating. It is intended to encourage institutions to improve the quality of their teaching.
Professor Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at the University of Exeter said: “We are naturally delighted to have been awarded the Gold rating, as part of the national Teaching Excellence Framework (…) At Exeter, we are absolutely committed to not only providing world-class research-inspired teaching and inquiry-led learning for all our students, but also aiding them at a time when they are making some of the biggest decisions of their lives. This Gold rating recognises not just this commitment, but crucially that we deliver this promise to those it matters to most – our students both now and in the future.”
Professor Tim Quine, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) said: “UK universities provide some of the very best higher education in the world. Universities that have received the highest rating have demonstrated that their provision is consistently outstanding of the highest quality found in the UK higher education sector. The University of Exeter’s Gold rating demonstrates that we consistently ensure our students are significantly challenged to reach their full potential, and are frequently engaged with developments from the forefront of our world-leading research, scholarship and practice.”
The TEF has attracted some controversy, particularly as universities who perform well under the framework will be allowed to raise their tuition fees at the rate of inflation over the next few years. Additionally, critics have pointed out that benchmarks set for each individual university can lessen the results of otherwise high-performing institutions. According to the University of Exeter website, all universities will be allowed to increase their fees with inflation this year, but from 2020/2021, only those with a Gold or Silver rating will be able to do so.
In January, NUS VP Higher Education, Sorana Vieru wrote for the Guardian: “In reality, the TEF is a tool by which to raise tuition fees, taking a poorly thought through approximation of teaching quality that Johnson himself has admitted is a test pilot, and using it to dramatically reshape the university landscape across England, with unknown economic and social impacts.”
Three Russell Group universities received a Bronze rating: Liverpool, LSE, and Southampton. SOAS University of London also got a Bronze rating. Durham, Bristol, and UCL were among those awarded silver.
The TEF is based both on metric criteria and a 15-page document submitted by institutions. Each institution is set individual benchmarks, to which metrics are compared. It takes into account how students from different groups, such as those determined by age, gender, disability, or ethnicity, perform.
The metrics uses six criteria taken from the National Student Survey, dropout rates, and graduate destinations – measuring both the number of graduates in employment or further study, and those in highly skilled employment. Gold status is generally given to institutions with at least three positive marks and no negative ones, but a score can also be improved with the written submission. The NUS voted in favour of a boycott of the National Student Survey due to its role in TEF judgements; however, Exeter Students’ Guild did not take part in this boycott.