On 6 November, BIS published its green paper - i.e. a consultation - on higher education, focused on high quality provision for students.
A new Teaching Excellence Framework
A large part of the green paper is devoted to the introduction of a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), to complement the existing Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Once the full system is in place, institutions that score more highly should not only attract more students, but will also be allowed to raise fees in line with inflation, so that they can invest even more in teaching quality and expansion.
Those that get lower assessments will be expected to raise their game, although some might eventually withdraw, leaving space for new entrants.
All subjects, types of delivery and HE levels will eventually be included in the assessment, including degree apprenticeships. Criteria and metrics will be set out in a future technical consultation and will evolve over time. However, an overarching framework is offered that includes:
- Aspects of teaching excellence, such as teaching quality, learning environment, student outcomes and learning gain.
- Common metrics such as destination, retention and student satisfaction indicators from the National Student Survey.
- Additional evidence, such as mission, size, priorities, diversity of intake, contact time and engagement of employers, learned societies and others in curriculum design.
The use of Grade Point Averages (GPA) to provide a more granular degree classification will be encouraged, but won’t be mandatory.
Other topics covered in the green paper include:
Social Mobility: the Government wants to focus more on progression and success among particular groups, such as white males from disadvantaged backgrounds and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.
New Providers: there are a number of proposals to make the application and approval process quicker and simpler (but no less robust, of course).
Exit: providers will have to have in place contingency arrangements setting out their approach and commitments in the event of institutional, course or campus closure.
Architecture: the Government intends to streamline the number of HE bodies and put prime emphasis on championing student interests. A new Office for Students (OfS) will run the TEF, pick up the responsibilities of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and the regulatory aspects of the HE Funding Council for England (HEFCE), ensure student protection and value for money, and assure financial sustainability and good governance.
BIS is seeking views by 15 January 2016.