News Article

Aston Got Gold!

What’s all this TEF about?


So you may have heard Aston got Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – how could you not? It’s on the University website, highlighted around campus and it’s in most of the University’s communications. This little logo may look good, but have you ever wondered what it means?

Well, it means that Aston is one of only 60 higher education providers to be awarded Gold for its teaching as part of the TEF. Nationally, 115 achieved silver, 55 bronze and 65 are still pending. This is a great achievement for Aston, and shows us that we receive gold standard teaching.

Now, you may be asking at this point: what exactly is the TEF?

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a voluntary scheme that higher education providers like Aston can choose to take part in. It looks to recognise excellent teaching in the UK’s world-class higher education sector. To determine whether you get Gold, Silver or Bronze, TEF panels consider an array of statistics, some of which are student satisfactions scores through the National Student Survey (NSS), and a written submission from the University.

This all sounds great so far, right? Aston students are receiving Gold standard teaching and the student voice is being listened to in the TEF’s decision.

Well, Jo Johnson, who is the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research & Innovation in the Government, gave a speech at the Universities UK (UUK) conference at the beginning of the month. In this speech, he said that changes will be proposed for the TEF. One of these changes is to halve the weighting given to NSS metrics, saying it will “give it a more proportionate place in the assessment”.  This would therefore mean that the only metrics used for the TEF that are from students’ views and opinions on their experience will not hold as much weight as before.  

There has been criticism in the past regarding both the TEF and the NSS, but this move calls into question exactly how much the TEF is worth. If I want to know what it’s like to be a student at a university, then I want to know what students think. If I was paying to go to a hotel, would I not first check the reviews?

Now, I’m not trying to belittle Aston’s achievement of being awarded a Gold, or saying that the University does not listen to you when asked about your experience.

I’m saying that the Student Voice is one of the most important things to consider when judging teaching excellence. A great teacher is not just someone that imparts knowledge onto me so I can pass an exam or someone that just tells me where I am going wrong. Like so many other students, I believe that a great teacher, and a great teaching institution like Aston, is one that inspires me to achieve my potential and drives my passion for the subject I study. This passion will drive me to achieve, not just at Aston but in my future career. After all, our academic journey is not just about our final destination or grade, but the experience of the journey itself.

So, why am I telling you about this?

Well, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is currently looking for applications for TEF Panel members, and they’re particularly looking for student representatives. These panels review all the TEF information and help decide what rating a higher education provider receives.

We want to ensure that the Student Voice is still at the heart of the Teaching Excellence Framework and panels’ discussions, even if NSS scores don’t hold as much weight. This helps future students to find the institution for them and drives excellence and passion in teaching. You can help ensure the panels work for the academic interests not just of Aston students, but of all students, by applying to join a panel.

You can find out more information about the roles and how to apply by clicking here.

Also, stay tuned to the Students’ Union website and my officer page, as I want to keep you up to date with all that is going on to represent your academic interests, both at Aston and nationally. I also want to hear your thoughts and opinions, so feel free to share and comment.


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