In the latest milestone in our work to overhaul our approach to regulating quality, today we're delighted to announce the membership of the TEF Panel. The panel brings together an impressive breadth and depth of independent academic expertise, and experience in representing students, from all parts of the higher education sector.
The panel's job will be to decide the ratings for providers that are due to take part in the TEF by making submissions in January 2023. Alongside the membership we have also published more information about the procedures the panel will follow.
The new TEF
Having consulted on our approach to regulating quality, we are now putting in place a system that has two central components:
- We secure a high quality baseline of performance for all universities and colleges (we refer to them as 'providers') registered with the Office for Students (OfS). We do this through a risk-based approach to identifying where scrutiny against our requirements might be appropriate.
- We drive improvement, or 'enhancement', above the high quality baseline through the TEF. This is a cyclical process, which runs every four years.
Through the TEF we encourage providers to deliver the best possible experience and outcomes for their students. We understand providers will have different approaches to this, depending on their contexts and characteristics. Therefore, we encourage providers to do this in whatever way they see fit. We expect the TEF will highlight the diversity of excellent teaching and learning across the breadth of the sector, and how excellence for diverse students is delivered in different ways.
Since publishing the TEF guidance in October, we've held a series of question and answer sessions with people working on their submissions. Minds are clearly focused on the task, and many questions from providers have been about what kind of evidence they should present to the TEF Panel. At times my answer has been to throw a question back: 'how do you know – for your own purposes – that you're delivering excellence for your students?'. The provider submission is essentially an opportunity for the provider to make the case for how it delivers excellence in its own terms, for its own students. The criteria for the ratings have deliberately been drawn broadly. There is no checklist to be ticked off, and we are not prescriptive about what evidence to submit.
We've also held sessions with students working on their submissions. Their questions too have mainly been about what kind of evidence to include as they want their submissions to have an impact on the panel's judgements. Our steer has been to focus on what students really think about the quality of their education.
Benefits of the TEF
Looking beyond the submissions, the real benefits of the TEF will come about from the actions that providers take throughout the four-year cycle to enhance and improve, and to deliver the best possible experiences and outcomes for their students. The process of writing a submission – and seeing what students have to say in their submission – encourages self-reflection. It can stimulate ideas for enhancement that dovetail with a provider's own strategies and plans for the coming years. Our intention is that the prospect of another TEF assessment in four years' time will keep up the momentum until then.
A panel of experts
For the TEF to encourage this effectively, it relies on the expert judgement of the panel with a breadth and depth of expertise across diverse educational contexts, and with a focus on what matters to students. In recruiting the TEF Panel, I was struck by the dedication and depth of expertise of so many people wanting to join it, and there were many excellent candidates we simply couldn't accommodate. What we have is a panel of experts from all types of providers including universities of different sizes and shapes, small and specialist institutions, further education colleges and independent providers. A third of the members are students, bringing a wide range of experience in representing the interests of students from all backgrounds.
We also sought to recruit a panel that reflects the diversity of the students whose experiences and outcomes it is considering, and the infographic below indicates we largely succeeded in this.
Collectively, the panel is well equipped to recognise and reward excellence in all its forms, and to recognise where there is room for improvement.
Our immediate task is to train panel members and prepare for the assessments. For providers and students making submissions, the deadline is 24 January 2023. Assessments will then be carried out by the panel and we expect to share provisional outcomes with providers in July, and then publish results from September 2023.