Former Undergraduate Education Officer at University of East Anglia’s Students' Union, Callum Perry explains why students should have their say on the future of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).
As a former sabbatical officer, I know how important it is to capture the voices of students. It is particularly important to ensure that underrepresented groups are heard equally through the insights we collect as student representatives. We know that the student voice is the bedrock of improving the student experience and working in partnership with your university or college is the most effective way to ensure good outcomes for all students.
The Office for Students (OfS) is currently consulting on the future of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and students have a real opportunity to help shape the future of teaching and learning in higher education.
The TEF consultation outlines proposals for a brand-new student submission, which would form part of the TEF submission process. This would allow student representatives to work together to author their own piece in addition to their university or college's submission. The student submission would cover the same areas of assessment and course offering. However, it provides an opportunity for students to combine their thoughts into one separate submission that will enrich the TEF assessment panel's understanding of the student experience of teaching and learning at that university or college.
I have had first-hand experience of how well this can work. During my time at the University of East Anglia (UEA), I developed the student submission for the university's access and participation plan. This process gave me the opportunity to work with stakeholders across the university, my colleagues in the students' union and the wider student body. The evidence we collated was constructive but, importantly, separate from the university's submission.
While I was Undergraduate Education Officer at UEA, I was often asked about how we can secure more effective forms of representation. My answer was always the same. It is not enough to simply be in the room where the conversation takes place; students and their representatives need to be at the heart of decision making and policy development.
The TEF student submission would give students an opportunity to be more than simply part of the conversation and rubber-seal approval of the university or college's submission. In previous years, a sabbatical officer may have sat in a meeting while information is collated, checking student-focused statements. Now, we as students have a greater opportunity to have our voices heard through the TEF assessment process.
The submission would be authored by the nominated TEF student contact, such as a sabbatical officer or another student representative. However, engagement with the wider student body is vital in enriching the student submission. As a student representative, when you read through the TEF consultation proposals, I hope you will start thinking about how you could use your existing structures to do a deep dive into the areas of focus for the student submission. This experience will not only help develop key skills and experience, but it will also allow you to explore how the student voice is collated and how representative and effective your processes are.
Of course, the student submission would be optional and students could also continue to be included in the formulation of the university or college submission. As part of the consultation proposals, it's also worth noting that the panel which would be assessing TEF submissions from universities and colleges would include student members, an element which would further enhance student involvement in the TEF process.
The TEF proposals will hopefully highlight the value of the student voice within a university or college and provide opportunities for students to influence decisions that impact their educational journey. Everyone has a story to tell about their higher education experience - those stories can now be heard through the proposed student submission.
The TEF consultation window is now open. Student representatives can work with their university or college on a response or provide feedback independently. The deadline for responses is 17 March 2022.
Find out more about the proposals in our student guide to the consultation.
Read the full consultation document and respond.