Student outcomes and the TEF – where we are now and next steps

We have today published the outcomes of our consultations on regulating student outcomes and on the future Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Director of Quality, Jean Arnold, summarises what this means in practice.

Group of five students looking at post-it notes on a wall

Overhauling our approach to regulating quality in English higher education is a significant undertaking, but an important one. As we've set out in our strategy, we want to ensure students receive a high quality academic experience that improves their knowledge and skills, with increasing numbers receiving excellent provision.

Our revised condition of registration (condition B3) means that students from all backgrounds can achieve positive outcomes and are protected from performance that is below our minimum expectations, whatever, wherever and however they study. At the same time, through the TEF, we want to incentivise universities and colleges to achieve excellence in teaching, learning and their outcomes – above and beyond our minimum expectations and in a way that recognises the full diversity of higher education courses and many ways students study.

We've carefully considered more than 600 responses to our phase three consultations. We've made some changes as a result of those responses, but we remain committed to the policy agenda we set out in January. This means we'll now begin implementing a revised condition of registration (condition B3 (student outcomes)) as well as taking forward a new TEF.

Our decisions mean that we're placing students at the heart of our approach to quality. Students at every participating provider will be invited and supported to make a submission to the TEF about their experience. And those submissions, together with providers’ submissions and our indicators, will be assessed by a panel in which students are full and active members. We think it’s important that students’ views are brought to bear on deciding where excellence is found across the sector.

A new approach to regulating student outcomes

We are imposing a revised condition of registration (B3), which will come into effect on 3 October 2022. The condition contains a new risk-based approach to setting and assessing minimum expectations for the outcomes universities and colleges deliver for their students. We consulted on a set of minimum numerical thresholds that we would use in our assessments, together with understanding of a provider's context.

Some responses to our consultation asked whether positive outcomes for students should be defined more broadly when students may gain wide-ranging benefits from their studies. We recognise that higher education produces wider value than we have captured in our indicators. This might be a reason to look at additional measures in the future, but it shouldn't prevent us from measuring and regulating the things we already know matter to students: continuing through to the end of their course and progressing successfully into the next stage of their career or studies. We must be able to protect students from courses which don't deliver these benefits.

We will make final decisions in September 2022 about the minimum numerical thresholds we will adopt, but can confirm now that they will not be set at a level higher than we proposed in the consultation. We also proposed to publish student outcomes data for universities and colleges, publicly showing their performance in relation to our thresholds. We will make final decisions about publishing data when we have considered all the responses to our separate consultation on publishing information about higher education providers, also expected in September.

Read the full consultation outcomes on regulating student outcomes, and our response

A refreshed Teaching Excellence Framework

The new TEF is designed to assess how far each university and college delivers excellence above our minimum expectations for quality, for its particular mix of students and courses. Assessments will be made by an expert panel of academics and students, looking at the quality of the student experience and student outcomes. They will consider a set of indicators produced by the OfS, a submission from the provider and an independent student submission. Universities and colleges will then be given a rating of Gold, Silver, Bronze or, where there is not enough evidence of excellence, ‘requires improvement'.

We recognise that applying for a TEF award involves a significant undertaking from both staff and students. So to allow more time for universities and colleges, and their students, to make submissions, we have decided on an extended submission window.

Event Timing proposed in the consultation Revised timing

The provider and student submission window opens

Early September 2022 

By the end of September 2022 

Submission deadline 

Mid November 2022 

Mid January 2023 

The TEF panel carries out the assessments 

Late November 2022 to March 2023 

Late January to June 2023 

Universities and colleges notified of the panel’s provisional decisions about their ratings  

April to May 2023 

July to August 2023 

Outcomes published for universities and colleges that do not contest the provisional decision 

May 2023 

September 2023 

The revised timing will, in particular, allow a wider range of student representatives to prepare submissions at a more suitable time of year for them. The importance of this was highlighted by students during the consultation process. To gauge student views, we held a series of events, produced a student guide and commissioned some dedicated polling. We encourage universities and colleges to start engaging with students now, if you haven't already, to support them in making a well-informed student submission as part of your TEF application.

We will be providing more information in the autumn about TEF submissions and the approach the panel will take to assessing them. Universities and colleges will meanwhile have more time to understand their data, and to reflect on their performance and any areas for improvement.

Read the full TEF consultation outcomes and our response

We are grateful for the time many in the sector have spent considering and responding to our consultation proposals. It’s vital that we hear the widest range of views as we develop our regulation. The decisions that we've published today complete the implementation of a single coherent approach to quality that will protect the interests of students and taxpayers. And we are confident that universities and colleges will experience a proportionate and risk-based approach to regulation that takes account of their particular circumstance and context.

Published 26 July 2022

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