Following the introduction of subject-level TEF in 2017 the Office for Students (OfS) wanted to measure its performance from their year 2 pilot to enable further development of the framework before a full sector roll out in 2020. The evaluation, involving a series of surveys, workshops and depth interviews with staff and students at participating HE providers, demonstrated a range of positive impacts resulting from involvement in subject-level TEF, from improvements to teaching quality, to improvements in widening participation. Improvements were not, however, found to be consistent across all participating providers, with many considering that subject-level TEF had little impact on their existing processes. Moreover, the evaluation also uncovered practical issues affecting the submission process. The information gathered were considered alongside a fuller review of the TEF, enabling OfS to make further improvements to the process.
About the client
OfS is the independent regulator of higher education in England. They are responsible for administering provider and subject-level TEF.
Challenges and objectives
Subject-level TEF was first introduced in 2017. Following an initial year-long pilot in 2017-18, OfS wanted to make tweaks to the framework before commencing a second-year of piloting. The evaluation was designed to measure the performance of subject-level TEF according to staff and students at participating HE providers, with a view to further developing the framework prior to full roll-out across the sector in 2020.
The evaluation entailed a series of surveys, workshops and depth interviews throughout the course of the subject-level TEF submission process (January to July 2019), involving staff and students. This enabled the collection of up-to-date feedback from the key individuals involved, at key stages in the process.
While the subject-level TEF process ‘worked’, it did not necessarily work ‘well’ for all. Improvements in teaching quality and widening participation weren’t found to be consistent across all participating providers, with many considering that subject-level TEF had little impact on their existing processes. More problematic were the practical issues affecting the submission process. For many individual staff it took over 5 working days to prepare their submission, student input was limited, and the complexity of data involved often hindered the submission process.
With the information gathered from this exercise, OfS were able to make further improvements to the process by improving communications, making them more timely, providing tighter guidance and offering more practical feedback. The results of the evaluation were also considered alongside a fuller review of the TEF, including the Pearce Review.
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