The Best Student Life. Bristol SU


What happens next?

Pledge to boycott the NSS here

Watch and share our video about the NSS boycott here


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.

+ What is the HE Bill and White Paper?

The Higher Education Bill and White Paper detail some of the most significant changes to Universities in over a decade....[read more]

In July 2015, the Minister for Science and Universities, Jo Johnson, announced aspirations for a ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ (TEF).  This Framework would use data like the National Student Survey and graduate employment stats to work out the quality of teaching students received.

The Government  then announced that Universities would be able to raise fees with inflation depending on how well they perform in the TEF.  This meant that TEF went from grading universities on the quality of their teaching and setting them against each other, to becoming a justification for increased cost and more expensive degrees.

This has since evolved into the Higher Education Bill and White Paper which, alongside the TEF and fee increases, detail some of the most significant changes to Universities in over a decade.

+ What do the Bill and White Paper include?

The implementation of a ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ and its connection to fee increases...[read more]

  • The implementation of a ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ and its connection to fee increases.
  • A new ‘Office for Students’, a body without student representation, that is responsible for promoting competition amongst Universities
  • Regulatory reform allowing private providers to gain easier access to awarding degrees, meaning an overall more marketised and more competitive HE sector (think Trump University)

As well as an emphasis on social mobility and widening participation:

  • A duty on Universities to publish their application and acceptance data
  • A duty on UCAS to publish data about the types of students that receive offers and rejections from Universities

Also, check out this video by the National Union of Students which explains the Higher Education Bill really clearly.


+ Why are we saying TEF Off?

We stand against the TEF’s true role as a means to raise tuition fees...[read more]

We welcome the idea of a Teaching Excellence Framework as it encourages Universities to improve their teaching.  At a research-intensive University like Bristol, where many Undergraduates state that they feel their tutors are more interested in their research than their lectures, this is particularly important.  

However, we are suspicious of whether the Teaching Excellence Framework is actually meant to improve teaching at all.  We are concerned by the fact the TEF uses flawed metrics like employment data and overall student satisfaction as a way to measure teaching quality.  We are also aware that there is no opportunity for students to feed in our perspectives on whether we have received excellent teaching when a University is being assessed.

But more pressingly, we stand against the TEF’s true role as a means to raise tuition fees.  If Universities pass stage one of the TEF (their quality assurance, or their ‘Ofsted’), they get to add inflation.  With each stage of the TEF, this number will increase.  Fees will climb to over £12,000 by 2026.

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, we do not believe that a rushed TEF based on questionable data is meant to improve teaching and widen access to University.  Rather, we see it as a way for the Government to shift the burden of paying for education off its own shoulders and onto the back of the individual student.

We’re a Students’ Union that is mandated to campaign for free education. Alongside the Trade Union for our academics and lecturers, we’re saying TEF Off to the government, and campaigning for Bristol University not to participate in a measure which will raise fees.

See below to find out what we’ve done so far to say TEF Off...


+ What We've done so far

This is the action we've taken against the TEF to date...[read more]

We have:

  • Submitted a response to the national consultation on the Teaching Excellence Framework, which closed on Tuesday 12 July

  • Attended a roundtable on Monday 11 July with Jo Johnson in Westminster, in which the Undergraduate Education Officer, Zoe Backhouse, grilled the Minister alongside five other full-time officers from other SUs, cross party MPs and NUS’ Vice President for Higher Education, Sorana Vieru

  • Written a letter on behalf of students to Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, and met with Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, to stand up for us in Parliament

  • Organised an ‘Activists Meet Up’ for Welcome Week to build solidarity amongst students in the lead up to launching the TEF Off campaign

  • Spoken to 100 students at Welcome Fair to raise awareness about the Bill and sign them up to support the campaign

  • Hosted a regional networking event on Friday 7 October.  This was a chance for activists to meet on a variety of issues affecting students, including campaigning against the TEF and HE Bill

  • Spoken constructively with senior leaders in the University to explain our concerns with the TEF 

  • Hosted a free panel event named: ‘Why are our fees going up?’ with academics and students from Bristol, as well as the NUS Vice President for Higher Education, Sorana Vieru

  • Got out on campus to speak to you about why your fees are going up and asking you to tell us what teaching excellence really means

  • Took students to the National Demo in London on 19 November to unite for education.

  • Asked our course reps to design a manifesto of what teaching excellence means to them at our Course Rep Conference.

+ Where we're going next

Our plans - and how you can get involved...[read more]

We are going to:

  • Join the national campaign which urges students to boycott the National Student Survey if the government does not cut the link between the TEF and fee rises. Information about the boycott and a sign up sheet can be found here.