MPs warn university teaching reforms risk harming sector’s reputation

29 Feb 16

Government plans to introduce a new teaching framework for universities, linked to powers to increase tuition fees, must be carefully planned to avoid harming the sector’s reputation, according to MPs.

The business, innovation and skills select committee said there were genuine concerns  about the new University Teaching Excellence Framework, including the pace of the introduction, which will start in 2017.

Under the scheme, universities will be judged on measures including student satisfaction, student retention rates and graduate job prospects to determine the quality of teaching. Those that fail to meet set standards will not be able to increase fees, in a measure intended to incentivise quality teaching.

Committee chair Iain Wright said UK universities have an outstanding international reputation.

“It’s vital that we capitalise on these strengths and not put the world-class status of our universities at risk by pushing ahead with a poorly implemented or rushed teaching excellence framework,” he stated.

“It’s better to get this major reform right than to get there quickly.”

The committee’s examination of the Higher Education Green Paper concluded there was support for the aims to improve teaching quality at universities, widen participation and increase the focus on graduate employability.

However, it called on a forthcoming consultation to respond to concerns that the first iteration of the TEF, due in 2017/18, may be too quick.

The first version is intended to ensure minimum standards of teaching quality before any tuition fee rises, with a second more detailed element planned for 2018/19. The committee recommended this should only be introduced once ministers can demonstrate the measures have the confidence of students and universities.

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