For the love of teaching

As we launch recruitment for members of a proposed new TEF panel, Professor Sir Chris Husbands, the chair, reflects on what made previous TEF panels successful and what made it rewarding for those involved.

We are currently considering responses to the consultation on the Teaching Excellence Framework. The information about the proposed TEF panel in this blog is indicative only, and subject to any final decisions that we make once we have fully considered responses received to the consultation. Any panel appointments will be made after consultation decisions have been taken.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) has been the subject of extensive review and revision, drawing both on the experiences of TEF assessment in 2018 and 2019, and the government’s response to Dame Shirley Pearce’s review of the structure, format and assessment approaches for the TEF. The proposals for a revamped TEF – like a regenerated Dr Who – are both recognisable and fresh. In its recent consultation, the Office for Students (OfS) proposed that universities, colleges and other higher education providers would undergo a fresh round of TEF assessment during the next year, with the intention that outcomes from the revamped and redesigned TEF would be published later in 2023.

The TEF was designed to identify and celebrate outstanding outcomes from teaching across higher education and to serve as a tool for driving further quality improvement. It built on a generation of approaches to teaching quality assessment, but took a more strategic, whole institution view of student outcomes in higher education, with a particular focus on identifying and understanding better the outcomes for different groups of students. The proposed revamped TEF shares this mission, while drawing on the lessons learnt from earlier TEF assessment. Like its predecessor, it would make use of a set of existing national datasets against which institutional performance can be benchmarked, alongside institutional submissions. An innovation in the proposed TEF is the inclusion of a separate student submission. The methodology, drawing on Shirley Pearce’s recommendations – which were themselves informed by extensive review of the statistical approaches and underpinnings – is more flexible and would be more responsive to institutional differences than its previous version.

All this means that the role of TEF panel members would, if anything, be more important than it was in the previous versions. Panel members would need to work more flexibly and inductively, making judgements across a range of statistical measures and qualitative submissions. I spoke extensively to the assessor teams I worked with on the earlier TEF and, without exception, they all said that the very act of being a TEF assessor had been a powerful driver for their own personal and professional development. They all hugely enjoyed being a member of a diverse team, drawn from right across the full breadth of higher education. They all felt that their own understandings of the breadth of institutional mission had been deepened by the process. They all felt that their grasp of decision making in universities had been enriched. As chair of the TEF panel, I found the leadership of a large, diverse, interesting and thoughtful group of assessors, all united by a commitment to understanding and finding what made for teaching excellence was exceptionally rewarding.

And so the OfS is now recruiting panel members for the proposed revamped TEF. The OfS is aiming to recruit a diverse team, which includes student panel members. One of the real pleasures of observing TEF assessment in 2018 and 2019 was how expertly and professionally the student assessors went about their role, how they combined their own student perspective with a maturity of judgement so quickly. 

Our academic staff assessors came from every corner of the sector – from large multi-faculty universities and specialist providers, from research intensive and teaching intensive universities, from charter universities, higher education corporations and for-profit providers, from higher education and further education. There were vice-chancellors, pro vice-chancellors, deans of faculty and heads of department, teaching and learning specialists and subject experts. They were a diverse group who reflected the enormous diversity of the sector.

Staff or student, and whatever the role, there is one overwhelming reason to want to become a TEF panel member. To use a word which doesn’t crop up much in assessment or selection processes, a love of teaching – a love of finding the things which drive its quality and its enhancement, the circumstances and the process which make for an exceptional student experience. The joy – another word which crops up too rarely – of the last TEF was just how many of those people there are and how generous they were with their expertise and wisdom in forming judgements.

Find out more about the proposed TEF panel and apply


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Published 26 May 2022

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