Higher Education Academy’s response to Green Paper recommends ‘case for excellence’ approach and the development of new metrics

Thursday, 21 January, 2016

Drawing on the HEA’s response to the Green Paper (“Fulfilling our potential: Teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice”) Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive, comments:

“As the national body which focuses exclusively on continuously improving teaching quality and promoting teaching excellence, the HEA warmly welcomes the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

“Since the proposal for a TEF was announced by the Minister, we have worked closely with our network of Pro-Vice-Chancellors (PVCs) for Learning and Teaching from across the sector to understand the needs on the ground. The messages that have emerged from these conversations have consistently pointed towards adopting a developmental, ‘case for excellence’ approach and – vitally – one that uses peer review.

“We strongly recommend this approach. Excellent teaching is not a destination but a dynamic and developmental process. The TEF should be an integral part of ongoing institutional enhancement activities to improve teaching quality and educational outcomes for students.

“Our view is supported by over a decade of experience in developing the UK Professional Standards Framework, the backbone of professional development in HE teaching and of HEA Fellowship; accrediting staff development programmes in higher education institutions, and identifying and promoting individual teaching excellence through the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme, and, latterly, through the HEA’s Vice-Chancellors’ Strategic Excellence Initiative.

“Peer review, by experts in teaching such as PVCs and HEA Principal Fellows is a key element of the ‘case for excellence’ approach. We also believe that awards should be made at two levels beyond the baseline – not three as the Green Paper suggests – and that TEF Level One is renamed ‘Threshold Level’ (or similar) and treated as a pre-requisite for applications for the subsequent award of teaching excellence . Institutions meeting this baseline Quality Assessment would be described as being ‘in good standing’. A new TEF Level One would require institutions to demonstrate advanced proficiency across all three of the proposed ‘aspects of teaching excellence’ – teaching quality, learning environment, student outcomes and learning gain. Such institutions would be described as being ‘in excellent standing’.

“TEF Level Two would require institutions to demonstrate excellence in a particular thematic area. Such institutions would be described as having ‘distinctive excellence’ in the particular field. This approach would distinguish between institutions without risking the reputational damage to UK HE by categorising institutions as having achieved one of up to four different levels of excellence.

 “In terms of how institutions are judged to be ‘in excellent standing’, we believe that input measures can be used and that these are as important as output measures in any consideration of appropriate metrics for the TEF. These could include the number of staff who are recent beneficiaries of CPD accredited by the HEA, and those who are National Teaching Fellows.

“In terms of output metrics, we believe that the National Student Survey (NSS) is flawed as a proxy for teaching excellence because it focuses only on student satisfaction. We know through HEA research by Graham Gibbs and others that measuring student engagement is a more effective metric for teaching excellence, and that it leads to better student outcomes. We therefore strongly recommend that BIS considers the use of the HEA’s UK Engagement Survey (UKES) as soon as possible.

“We also suggest student employability rather than student employment as a metric. Equipping students with the knowledge and skills to secure employment should be a core part of the learning experience. To this end, a group of institutions are currently piloting ways of measuring employability as part of the learning gain process, using the HEA’s Framework for embedding employability in HE. We believe that this work could be developed to provide a useful proxy.

“The HEA can play a critical role in realising the Minister’s vision of driving up teaching standards and boosting social mobility, therefore increasing productivity and improving outcomes for students. We look forward to continuing to work with the sector on the forthcoming technical consultation  to develop the TEF into a useful and workable model.”


You can read the HEA's full response to the Green Paper here.

For further information, please contact Prue Griffiths or William Syms, HEA press office, 01904 717500, prue.griffiths@heacademy.ac.uk, william.syms@heacademy.ac.uk


Notes to editors

Further key points from the HEA's response:

1. Access: we strongly support the emphasis in the Green Paper on better access, retention and progression for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our Framework for student access, retention, attainment and progression is designed to advise institutions on how best to helpstudents succeed.

2. Information for students: we know from the HEA-HEPI Student Academic Experience Survey that priorities for institutional spending selected by students (after reducing fees) are: 'having more hours of teaching', 'better training for lecturers' and 'reducing the size of teaching groups’. These therefore should be the focus of future development of information for students.

3. Information for employers: following its successful pilot of the Grade Point Average (GPA) the HEA has recently launched an implementation initiative to help providers introduce the GPA which we hope will smooth the introduction of a system providing more detailed insights into students’ performance. The Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), championed by the HEA with the sector, also supports employer needs for more detailed information on student performance. As a running record of student achievement academically and otherwise it is a tool that supports employability. Over 90 HEIs are issuing or working towards the HEAR.