The Teaching Excellence Framework (Tef) is deeply unpopular, failing students and not fit for purpose says a report released today (Thursday) by the University and College Union (UCU).

Eight in 10 staff (81%) said they do not believe the Tef helps inform potential students’ university choices. While seven in 10 (71%) said it failed to recognise and reward teaching excellence.

As well as being not fit for purpose, the report - by Professor Matt O’Leary, Dr Vanessa Cui and Dr Amanda French from Birmingham City University - also found that the Tef is deeply unpopular with staff, with just one in 10 (10%) welcoming its introduction. 

The findings, based on a survey of nearly 6,000 university staff, follow a Department for Education study that revealed fewer than half of students (43%) were aware of the Tef when they applied to university.

That study also found that two-thirds of students did not understand how the Tef worked, and only 15% said they used it to help their decision-making, despite “better informing student choice” being one of the Tef’s stated objectives.

Introduced in 2016 by the government with the purported aim of measuring teaching quality at universities, the Tef is currently subject to a review, led by Dame Shirley Pearce. UCU said the review was an opportunity to scrap the Tef and shift focus onto the real pressure points facing teaching staff, such as pay, excessive workloads and casualisation.

UCU head of policy Matt Waddup said: ‘This report shows that the Tef has next to no support among university staff. It is a tarnished brand which has failed at the most basic level to engage teachers or their students. 

‘Millions of pounds have been invested in the Tef, but what we really need is a recognition that the best way to encourage high quality teaching is to properly support teachers. This means properly addressing issues such as pay, workloads and casualisation. 

‘The current review is the perfect opportunity to dump the Tef and establish a better approach based on the real needs of staff and students.’

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