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3 Practical Steps to Prepare for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF):

In the Autumn of 2015 the United Kingdom’s Universities Minister, Jo Johnson argued that whilst Higher Education Institutions (HIEs) have established a world-class reputation for academic research, many have failed to give their £9,000 per year fee-paying students a world-class education to match. With so much attention and focus put on the quality and power of institutional research over the last six years, many authoritative figures are suggesting that this focus has detracted from the quality of teaching provided to the very students who lie at the heart of such institutions.

Increasingly, UK industry has been calling out for universities to produce ‘career ready’ graduates, who are well equipped with the knowledge and skills to experience success in today’s changing industry. The 2015 Employer Skills Survey highlighted that approximately 2 thirds of all service businesses had experienced recruitment challenges due to a shortage of graduate employability skills and that 94% of these businesses said that this had a negative impact on their organisational growth. It has therefore been suggested that teaching quality in higher education is not meeting the needs of industry.

Introducing the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF):

Proposed to start in the 2017/18 academic year, the introduction of the TEF will see the government monitoring and assessing the quality of teaching across England’s Universities. With a view to encourage a world-class teaching experience for all students, the TEF aims to ‘identify, reward and encourage the highest quality of teaching’ across Higher Education. By doing so, the new framework attempts to ensure that teaching experience and quality, is a priority and on a par with institutional research, in attempt at improving the graduate employability prospects of students.

The publicity surrounding the TEF has become a heated topic for many Higher Education circles – most notably due to the financial incentives available to those institutions that meet the standards of the TEF. Universities that sign up to, and get a good rating, will be granted permission to raise their tuition fees in line with inflation, whereas universities that fail to meet the standards of the TEF will be capped at the existing £9,000 fee limit. The government hopes that this incentive will encourage more universities to take notice of the TEF in order to avoid a decline in their income and ensure their employability programme is of the highest standard.

Practically, What Does the Introduction of the TEF Mean?

By realigning teaching quality with institutional research, the introduction of the TEF will mean that the priorities of many universities will change. Whilst the specific measurements of the framework are still being finalised we already know that universities will be required to provide an education that goes beyond academic excellence and one which highlights the importance of employability skills. The government’s white paper, published in May 2016, suggests that the structure and quality of teaching needs to change to reflect changes in the landscape of industry. The new framework will encourage universities to provide opportunities for students to enhance their personal list of employability skills and develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are being demanded from industry.

This will encourage a more joined-up approach from universities, where teaching, research and employability are the key ingredients that combine to create a successful teaching strategy. As more and more is revealed about the TEF, Universities will be evaluating their existing strategy and identifying potential opportunities to enhance the quality and provision of their teaching in readiness for the TEF.

Preparing for the TEF:

Implementing a new agenda can often be a challenging task that brings its own set of unique challenges. Inevitably, the introduction of the TEF will result in changes (whether big or small) to the way in which teaching is delivered across universities. In preparation for the TEF, Gradvert have introduced three key steps that universities can take to ensure they are ‘TEF ready’:

  1. Bring Graduate Employers into the Mix: Understanding what makes a graduate ‘employable’ is crucial to providing an education that develops the necessary employability skills a graduate will need to experience success. Identify and communicate with local, national and international graduate employers who take on graduates from your degree discipline. Gaining a deeper understanding of what ‘employability’ looks like within your discipline will allow you to critically evaluate your teaching strategy and ensure that the right skills are being developed and the right points.
  2. Establish Connections with External Organisations: The learning cycle is a complex mechanism. We know that for true learning to occur, there needs to be a combination of; knowledge gained with practical opportunities to ‘test-out’ knowledge. Establishing connections with organisations will create more practical opportunities including; work placements, mentoring and work shadowing, where students can gain a practical experience. But how do we target the masses? Bring employers into the institution, providing opportunities for students to work on live project briefs and engage in enterprise related activities.
  3. Blend the Approach between Academia and Industry: The introduction of the TEF isn’t about abandoning research practice, instead it is about providing an equal standing between teaching and research. Combining primary research with practical industry related opportunities will allow students to understand theory but apply their learning in a context specific to their discipline. Rather than focusing on each element separately, a holistic approach to teaching should be taken to maximise the benefits for students.

Gradvert is the only UK Company that works strategically with both universities and employers to roll out successful Graduate recruitment schemes and ILM accredited training programmes. 

Gradvert has supported various universities to effectively deliver their employability skills agenda, ensuring that more students possess and showcase the knowledge, employability skills and behaviours that graduate employers are looking for. As a result, more students enter graduate level roles following graduation.

Find out how Gradvert can support you with your wider employability agenda.


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