Who, what, when, why? The new TEF Guide has thrown up all sorts of questions about university rankings and their validity so we've created a guide to answer all those burning questions!

The new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) has switched up the rankings of UK Universities in a different way never seen before. But what is the TEF and how was it put together? And most importantly, how will it change the way you look at certain universities when choosing them to study at? Here at Student Hut we have created a guide to answer all your questions!


1. What is the TEF?

It’s a new scheme that aims to recognise excellent teaching in addition to pre-existing national quality requirements for universities and colleges. It aims to put the standard of teaching at a university on an equal footing with the standard of research produced by that institution, whilst helping prospective students choose where to study.


What are the different awards?

Gold: This is the top award. These universities have consistently delivered outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for students.

Silver: These universities deliver high quality teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It consistently exceeds strict national quality requirements for UK higher education

Bronze: These universities meet basic requirements for teaching, learning and outcomes for students.


What criteria are the universities assessed according to?

The TEF ratings are decided by a Assessment Panel made up of students, academics, and employers.

The TEF ratings are mainly determined by a university’s performance in three key areas:

  1. Teaching quality: Whether teaching is stimulating and challenges and engages students.

  2. Learning environment: Whether resources support students’ learning and aid the progression of their independent study and research skills.

  3. Student outcomes: Whether students achieve their educational or professional potential.

The panel also take into consideration continuation rates, student satisfaction and employment outcomes from national data when making their decision.


How did they work it out?

  1. The National Student Survey (NSS), particularly the sections that measured students’ opinions about the quality of teaching and the assessment and feedback they received, as well as the academic support they were offered.

  2. Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE), which shows the proportion of students in further education and employment six months after graduation.

  3. Universities can also submit a written report supplying contextual information about why they meet the assessment criteria.


2. How will the TEF affect how you choose your university?


How is it different from traditional rankings?

The TEF is about teaching excellence rather than research excellence. It is possible that even though an institution has a good reputation and is held in high regard based on its research, it may not provide the best quality of teaching. The TEF was developed with this in mind and with the aim of becoming more focused on what students get out of their university experience.


Other rankings to keep in mind

It does seem, therefore, that the TEF could be helpful when trying to decide on a university, but it doesn’t seem reliable enough yet to be the sole basis for making your decision! Make sure you consider these other aspects:

  • Entry standards and requirements

  • Student satisfaction (head over to https://www.studenthut.com/universities to see what our community of current and former students think of the uni you’re considering!)

  • Research quality

  • Graduate prospects

It is best to look at university rankings holistically instead of individually. One university may have a good reputation but that does not mean that that university is most suited to your interests.


3. What are the weaknesses of the TEF?

What are the implications of the TEF on tuition fees?

The decision to raise or maintain tuition fees based on TEF rankings is unconfirmed. The government is yet to confirm their decision but the TEF still has the potential to increase tuition fees in certain higher ranked universities.


Why has it been so controversial?

  • Potentially damaging to university reputations, especially Russell Group universities.

  • Will force universities to make decisions that might improve their TEF grade rather than making decisions to improve the education of students.

  • May eventually result in a tiered system of tuition fees which may force students from poorer backgrounds to choose between a better education and a more affordable one.

  • It could be argued that this controversy in itself is a weakness of the TEF. Many experts disagree on how it should be used, which creates doubts for students and academics who are the ones most affected by the TEF.


4. Some next steps to take in your journey to choosing a university:

  • Look at our site for course reviews and module reviews

  • Follow our social media pages to ask questions about uni life, study, and work

  • Check out our helpful articles to help you with your university decisions and preparations!

  • Visit Open Days and look through University prospectuses.


5.TEF Rankings list:  

Click the link below to look at the TEF Ranking



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