Work to develop subject-level TEF continues

The TEF enters a second year of piloting, as work progresses to develop the subject-level assessment framework.

Students are set to benefit from more information about teaching quality than ever before as a pilot scheme to extend the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) to subject level enters its second year.

This year’s pilot, involving around 50 universities and colleges, takes into account the findings from the first pilot in 2017-18, as well as the government’s response to a consultation held earlier this year. Following the completion of the pilot programme, ratings on teaching quality at both provider and subject level will be announced in Spring 2021. 

The Office for Students has also announced details about the process for the next year of the existing provider-level TEF, ahead of the award of TEF ratings next summer.

Yvonne Hawkins, Director of Teaching Excellence and Student Experience at the Office for Students, said:

‘The TEF assesses the things that students care about: teaching quality, the learning environment that supports them; and employment and further study outcomes.

‘The development of a robust model for subject-level TEF is progressing well, with the commitment and hard work of the participating universities and colleges, and the academics and students on the assessment panels.

‘Last year we tested and evaluated two different assessment models for generating subject-level ratings. This year we will consolidate this work, piloting a single approach that draws on feedback about the best elements from the previous models. The TEF’s strength relies not on any single source of evidence, but in drawing together multiple sources and making holistic judgements. This ensures no one issue is over-weighted. The changes we will be piloting are designed to strengthen this approach, so that ratings are informed by comprehensive contextual information.

‘The input of students to last year’s pilot was invaluable, so this year we are also introducing ways to further strengthen their involvement.’


  • The government introduced the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) in 2016 to recognise and reward excellent teaching in UK higher education providers and help inform students’ choices about what and where to study. See more information on the TEF.
  • The Office for Students is responsible for implementing provider-level TEF according to the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) TEF specification and is working with the DfE to develop TEF at subject level.
  • For the next year, starting this autumn, the established TEF process and the second subject-level TEF pilot will run in parallel. For the established TEF process (TEF Year Four), awards will be made in summer 2019. For the subject-level pilot, no ratings will be published although universities and colleges will have access to the results of their own pilot assessment.
  • After the subject-level pilot programme is complete, TEF will then move to become a larger exercise that produces both provider and subject ratings. We expect applications to take place in early 2020, with the ratings announced in spring 2021.
  • So that all universities and colleges participating in the TEF will be under the same system by 2021, the duration of provider-level TEF awards will be adjusted. Existing awards due to expire in 2020 will be extended until 2021, and new awards given in 2019 will also be valid until 2021.
  • Key changes made for the second year of piloting include:
    • A revised model that will involve comprehensive assessment of all subjects and a separate provider level assessment.
    • Student involvement and the student voice will be more prominent. Two new metrics proposed by students in last year’s pilot will be added: on learning resources and student voice. The criteria will include a focus on student partnership.
    • Other revisions to the basket of metrics that informs the assessment will be tested including: a different combination of employment-related metrics; refined data on grade inflation; and new data focusing on gaps in attainment for disadvantaged student groups. Measures of ‘Teaching intensity’ will no longer be included.
  • The DfE has published its response to the consultation on subject-level TEF which it ran earlier in 2018.
  • The OfS has published a report on the findings from the first year of the subject-level pilot.
  • The OfS has published guidance for the subject-level TEF pilot 2018-19.
  • View the OfS procedural guidance for higher education providers who wish to take part in TEF Year Four, which will result in awards in 2019.


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