A seminar held at the House of Commons and questioning the ‘unnatural division’ of HE research and teaching, heard that TEF provided a platform for “rethinking institutional priorities” alongside a plea for greater institutional and sector integration around both activities.
Opening yesterday’s event, hosted by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and Higher Education Policy Institute and attended by a range of Vice-Chancellors and sector leaders, speaker Professor Paul Blackmore described the differing points of emphasis of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the Office for Students as “unhelpful”.
“Teaching and research are both forms of learning and learning is something that both teaching and research are involved in. That’s why they are connected. You don’t need to bring them together – just don’t divide them in the first place,” said Professor Blackmore,
Reprising arguments made a recent HEPI paper1, Professor Blackmore said that for all the parity of esteem benefits of TEF to the status of teaching, it would be difficult for the reputational advantages of excellent teaching to trump the academic and institutional prestige associated with excellence in research.
“The good ship TEF is approaching the prestige iceberg,” cautioned Professor Blackmore, Professor of Higher Education in the International Centre for University Policy Research at the Policy Institute, King’s College London.
Responding, fellow speaker Professor Chris Husbands said TEF was no Titanic and was instead channelling a fleet around what he described as an “opportunity to rethink institutional perception and institutional priorities”
“TEF will focus teams, including more senior teams, on what drives the student experience,” said Professor Husbands, who is Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University and inaugural chair of the TEF Assessment Panel.
“I don’t think improving teaching at scale is easy but it can be done. It requires a range of interventions – resource allocation, professional learning and a strong institutional system.”
Concluding before a question and answer session held under the Chatham House Rule, Professor Husbands said the TEF was not perfect but represented a positive framework around which to build practice driven outcomes to the benefit of students.
“The REF went through a series of changes and TEF will too,” he predicted.
Commenting on the seminar, HEA CEO and event Chair Professor Stephanie Marshall said both speakers had acknowledged the contribution of both research and teaching to learning outcomes and that TEF would be important to the status of teaching.
“While it may not completely tip the scales, I believe that what we heard today and what we have seen to date, with Higher Education providers engaged in robust discussions about their TEF narratives and the ‘added value’ that students gain from a holistic ethos and approach, recognises that TEF will go a significant way to rebalancing sector focus,” she said.
1HEPI Occasional Paper (14) Tackling Wicked Issues: Prestige and Employment Outcomes in the Teaching Excellence Framework