The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has published the results of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s new system for rating university teaching according to Gold, Silver or Bronze status. St George’s has received a Bronze award.

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calendar-icon 22 June 2017

Jane Saffell, Deputy Principal (Education) talks about TEF and the lessons for St George’s.

What was the purpose of TEF?

TEF seeks, rightly, to readdress a perception that research intensive universities are by their mere existence somehow academically superior to those that primarily teach students. Putting teaching on the same level as research is, on the whole, a good thing and this intention of TEF is one we welcome. Teaching and research are equally important at St George’s.

How is teaching excellence measured for TEF?

TEF ratings are not based on absolute comparisons between universities but by the degree to which a metric was higher or lower than a benchmark uniquely applied to each university. Scoring lower than one’s own benchmark in two or more metrics meant Bronze designation.

Teaching excellence is difficult to measure so proxies were used instead relating to historic data on student retention, graduate destinations, and student satisfaction with teaching, academic support and assessment and feedback - all for undergraduate students only.

TEF scores do not include postgraduate teaching and, at George's, excludes data for our part-time students.

Is Bronze a fair ranking for St George’s?

The word ‘Bronze’ does not evoke the high quality of teaching, and participation in research, science and healthcare training that a St George’s education affords our students. The rating does highlight two areas where we must do better. We scored below our benchmark for Assessment and Feedback and Academic Support (advice and guidance about courses), and these must be a focus for transformation in the coming years.

St George’s also scored slightly below benchmark on 'Highly skilled employment', despite being first in the country for graduate prospects.

This indicates one of the weaknesses of using graduate choices six months after graduation as a proxy for teaching excellence. For example, to prepare them for graduate medicine applications, some of our science graduates take positions as healthcare assistants. This is a good path for their intended journey but counts against St George’s as the position is deemed not “highly skilled”.  

What happens next?

TEF ratings can be held for three years but there is wide recognition in our community that St George’s warrants a Silver rating, so we will reapply sooner. This will require evidence of our quality and character to include in a provider narrative, helped by the introduction of systems and processes for gathering information and charting quality. Of course, our eventual aim is for St George’s to be recognised with the highest TEF rating.

We have an Education and Students strategy in place and an operational plan for making the improvements that need to be made - and for better harnessing and projecting St George’s enormous strengths. These changes will take time to feed through to the NSS and from there into TEF metrics, but we will get there.