By Zoe Backhouse, Undergraduate Education Officer
You may have heard over the summer of a series of mysterious changes happening in Higher Education.
Stuff about fees going up, a thing called the ‘TEF’, and then a new and shiny rating system which will rank Universities ‘bronze, silver and gold’.
What you’ve been hearing about is the Higher Education Bill.
The Higher Education Bill is the first of its kind for over a decade and will, alongside Brexit, cause the biggest shake up for Universities in living memory.
The Bill proposes a series of changes that have been criticised across the sector as a means of marketising Universities (making them compete like businesses), and, in turn, making students into consumers.
The most significant example of this is the Teaching Excellence Framework, or, as it’s more commonly known, the TEF. The TEF measures the quality of teaching at a Uni, and, depending on the Uni’s performance, raises fees as a reward.
University of Bristol has not yet decided on whether to participate with the voluntary Teaching Excellence Framework.
Surely, at a research intensive uni where many students feel their lecturers’ primary interest is not in teaching, we should welcome enforcement on teaching excellence?
Well, do not be fooled by the rosy words of ‘Teaching Excellence’ and the consumerist ideal of pairing universities off against each other.
In fact, most of the ways the TEF will measure teaching quality have nothing to do with teaching at all: dropout rates, student satisfaction survey results, graduate employment data, and a University’s self-written assessment (with no requirement for students to feed in) certainly measure ‘things’, but have very little to do with the quality of teaching we receive day to day in our seminars, lectures and labs.
Why does the TEF have nothing to do with teaching quality? What’s the point?
Simply: TEF is a chance to raise fees. In a context where the Conservative government is also selling student debts to companies, slashing Disabled Students Allowance, converting maintenance grants and NHS bursaries to loans and making our debt more expensive after we’ve signed the contract, the TEF is primarily a means for them to shift the burden of paying for education off their own shoulders and onto the back of the individual student.
The University of Bristol does not have to participate with TEF. It has had various opportunities to respond individually to criticise the TEF and protect its students.
As a Students’ Union that is mandated to campaign for free education, As a students' union that believes in free education, we say TEF Off to the Higher Education Bill and ask our University to stand with us against these changes.
We believe teaching excellence is achieved through collaboration, not competition. We have no interest in a framework that poses a measure of teaching excellence as a way of loading students with more debt.
For more information about:
Head to bristolsu.org.uk/tefoff
If you would like to support our campaign, whether that’s just keeping up to date, coming along to our events, signing our open letter, heading to the National Demo (anything!), you can sign yourself up here.