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TEF – no hasty judgements

28 Sep 2023 | Dr Charles Knight Charles Knight considers what the organisational response to TEF should be and why we need to avoid rushing into action. He also discusses how Advance HE plans to support members.

Advance HE is a member-led organisation with a mission to enhance higher education so the release of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results is important to us. In discussing what these results means for eligible members, I also want to discuss how we plan to support you.  

With nearly 1 in 4 results ‘pending’ due to appeal, we do not currently have a full picture of outcomes. For 46 universities and colleges that have received a gold rating, today is one of public celebration. In contrast, this will be a period of introspection for the 100 with Silver and the 29 with bronze. There will be pressure for providers who received a “needs improvement” ranking in an individual category.  

There is often a tendency to make a rapid change based on a single point in time. For universities with a disappointing TEF outcome, there might be tension between carrying on with a long-term planned strategy and the desire to make a sharp course correction to demonstrate that ‘something is being done’. This would be a mistake because slow and steady change built on best practices and what works will likely lead to better decisions and outcomes. Continuing with a planned strategy means you have more information and feedback to evaluate the situation and make informed choices. When TEF submissions were made, it represented a retrospective view of what organisations already knew were their strengths to build on and their weaknesses to eliminate.  

Moreover, our CEO Alison Johns, in a recent report on HE workforces, notes that “creating institutional spaces for people to come together, collaborate and co-create” will be vital for higher education’s success. This is right; therefore, any organisational response to TEF must be at a pace that fosters trust and collaboration and is about colleagues across the university effecting change and not simply being affected by the change.  

Leaders must listen to colleagues’ opinions, needs, and concerns in any change process. They must also share their vision, expectations, and challenges. As Emily Pollinger notes in a HEPI Blog this morning, the provider and student submissions release allows Universities to learn from each other. 

So, what does this mean for the Advance HE response to TEF?  

Our work on student success frameworks, introducing the new PSF scheme and ongoing member benefits all provide different perspectives and activities that can influence and impact organisations regarding teaching excellence. Moreover we have our bespoke CHIPs (Collaborative High Impact Projects) working directly with individual universities on issues such as student wellbeing and employability. 

Specifically for TEF, like my advice above, rather than rush to conclusions we are starting a detailed analysis of the results which will continue through October as submission statements and more details are released.  

In November, we plan to host an online summit to discuss our preliminary analysis and what this tells us about what works. We’ll be listening to members about what they think this analysis means. This will be followed by a report for members to further expand on what TEF means for teaching and learning and student support. 

Let us be steadfast and deliberate and use this as a springboard to continue providing a transformational experience for students. 


Dr. Charles Knight is Assistant Director for Knowledge and Innovation at Advance HE. He has worked globally with HEIs on strategy around Teaching and Learning, portfolio development and building links with enterprise for the purposes of knowledge exchange.  

As part of our member benefit offering 2023 - 24, we are offering a series of interactive sessions to help the sector define what educational gain means in their localised contexts. Find out more about the project

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