Sector ownership - the key to TEF success
We continue our series ‘TEF: Voices from the sector’, with Dr Colleen Connor, Higher Education Consultant and formerly Dean of Learning and Teaching at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
I applaud many of the comments made in the Green Paper on teaching excellence. I certainly agree that league tables are not always an accurate reflection of the quality of education provided and that outstanding teachers deserve to be recognised. Also the stated commitment to help institutions improve the quality of their teaching by highlighting exemplary practices and recognising research and teaching as potentially mutually reinforcing activities must benefit the sector as a whole.
But, as with most proposals for change in higher education, the devil will be in the detail - particularly the detail of how teaching excellence will be assessed.
The consultation rightly recognises that universities will not wish to be burdened with further bureaucracy. Equally, however, academics will not take kindly to any assessment that they view as flawed in one way or another. My 30 years experience as an academic and my experience of holding responsibility for quality enhancement within a university have shown me how the criticality of academics is most acute when evaluation is directed at their own practice. There is nothing wrong with this - but I simply wish to make the point that for the teaching excellence framework to work in the long term it will require that academics both respect and engage with the assessments made of teaching excellence.
In this regard I believe the experience of the Higher Education Academy has much to commend it. I have worked with the HEA as an Accreditor for over 10 years and know how, during this time, the HEA has developed its relationship with the sector. The introduction of a sector owned professional standards framework was no mean feat and the growth in numbers of individuals and institutions putting themselves forward to be assessed against the professional standards for teaching in higher education demonstrates the advances made. Over 140 institutions now have accredited provision with the HEA and there are over 70,000 HEA Fellows. The HEA has ensured that that those of us undertaking the assessment of professional standards are suitably trained (through regular webinars and compulsory training events) and that the system for making judgments incorporates an appropriate moderation process. Such assurances of any system being fair and rigorous, together with a general approval of the measurement used, will be important for the sector to view the TEF as a worthwhile initiative.
In short, it will be vital that any measurement of teaching excellence is made meaningful within higher education and only then will it be able to raise the standard of teaching and meet the ultimate goal of improving the experience provided for students.
Please note that the views expressed in this post are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Higher Education Academy.