18 Dec 2015

Teaching Excellence Framework proposals – What are the implications for Scotland and the QEF?

In November 2015 the Westminster Government published the much anticipated Higher Education Green Paper. The Green Paper proposals come at a time when discussions about the review and development of the Quality Enhancement Framework (QEF) in Scotland are ongoing. In this complex landscape, there may be challenges to preserving Scotland’s distinctive enhancement-led approach which is founded on collaboration and partnership, and of which student engagement is a fundamental principle.

As a result, a concern in Scotland is that institutions’ adoption of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in England could have an effect on the enhancement-led approach to quality in Scotland, with Scottish institutions feeling the pressure to compete on the same terms as their English counterparts.

Over the coming months sparqs will continue to feed into the national conversations about how the sector responds to the developments in the rest of the UK. sparqs started these discussions, holding an event in October 2015 with NUS Scotland to articulate what excellent learning and teaching means for students in Scotland and what role students’ associations should have in setting that agenda. These discussions revealed that students placed significance on values such as partnership and inclusiveness as indicators of excellence rather than a sole focus on metrics.

As part of this process we are developing a number of ideas on how the sector may increase student involvement in quality arrangements. We will be working to progress these proposals with students and the sector over the coming months. These suggestions include redeveloping the sparqs Student Learning Experience (SLE) tool. The SLE is an established tool used to facilitate students to have meaningful conversations around the quality of the student experience. We anticipate that it could be used to develop enhancement activity, providing evidence of work across Scotland of a continuous process of developing teaching excellence, focusing on enhancement and partnership. We are also exploring how student engagement in institution-led reviews could be enhanced by developing student subject experts. Finally, we are interested in how Student Partnership Agreements (SPAs) could be further embedded in quality processes. If we could develop a more systematic way of monitoring the impact of SPAs we would also be able to add to the national picture of successes in enhancement activity.

The Green Paper Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice presents a range of proposals: from the market-led expansion of the sector, to the establishment of a “new regulator and student champion”, the Office for Students (OfS). The headline proposal to emerge from the Paper is the introduction of the TEF in England. The first iteration of the TEF will be introduced next year and in order for each institution to qualify they must have undergone a recent successful quality assessment review. In time, it is anticipated that institutions’ fees will differentiate according to the TEF level awarded.

At the moment there is no suggestion that Scottish universities will be required to adopt the TEF and, given Education is a devolved issue, any legislation will not apply in Scotland. That is not to say, however, that the TEF will not have an indirect impact on the sector in Scotland.

Throughout this process we will be working closely with NUS Scotland and other sector agencies to ensure that students are able to continue to engage with and influence this debate.

For more information about sparqs work on this area please contact Hannah Clarke, Development Consultant – hannah.clarke@sparqs.ac.uk

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