Teaching & Learning


Initiatives and resources supporting the objectives of UCL's Education Strategy 2016-21


UCL makes submission to subject-level TEF pilot 2019

11 March 2019

26 subject narratives drawn up by network of drafters working with Arena Centre; UCL also gives formal response to independent review of TEF

The UCL main quadrangle

UCL has now made its submission to the second subject-level pilot of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF)

We are among 50 higher education providers across England taking part in this year’s pilot, submitting 26 subject narratives as well as an institutional narrative. Our participation in the 2018-19 pilot prepares for the first full TEF exercise that will run over 2 years, from 2019-2021, and is compulsory for all English providers with more than 500 students.

The submission was made possible by exceptional engagement from departments. Deans recruited academics as subject level ‘drafters’ who then worked with colleagues and students from allied departments, the Arena Centre for Research-based Education and Office of the Vice Provost (Education and Student Affairs) to develop subject level drafts, based on their Annual Student Experience Review (ASER) narratives and metrics provided by the Office for Students.

Dr Clare Goudy, Director of Education Planning in the Office of the Vice-Provost (Education and Student Affairs), said: ‘Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this submission possible. We learned a great deal about how to build the TEF into the existing quality assurance and curriculum review cycle and we hope to reduce further the bureaucracy associated with the process.’

When will we know the result?

We will receive our results in the summer. While they will not be published, and as official government data will be confidential to each department, they will give us a sense of our likely performance in the first full TEF and help us to target support to enhance teaching and learning in departments.

What’s the future of TEF?

Dame Shirley Pearce has been appointed by the Office for Students conduct an independent review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF). Dame Shirley will report to the Secretary of State in the summer of 2019. The review includes a consultation of the sector and beyond, which closed on 1st of March.

The main points of UCL’s formal response to the consultation were:

  • We agree with the principle that universities should be able to demonstrate high-quality teaching and strong student outcomes. However, we do not think that it is possible to assess ‘teaching excellence’ with the available metrics.
  • We value the benchmarked data that allows us to put our students’ outcomes in the wider context, evaluate our relative strengths and weaknesses and priorities enhancement work. However, we are not convinced that this data should be used to rate individual providers.
  • We do not think that the Gold, Silver, Bronze ratings are useful, as they are not objective standards. although there could be merit in having some way of indicating exceptional student outcomes.
  • TEF’s primary benefit is likely to be as a source of information to students so the exercise should be designed to provide them with what they need to know.

Clare Goudy said: ‘As well as responding to the consultation process, we hope that our participation in the pilot will influence the design of the first full TEF, so that it is capable of presenting a nuanced picture of the education we provide.’