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Following recent discussions, Royal Holloway Students' Union (RHSU) and University and College Union (RHUL-UCU) want to state their united opposition to the Higher Education Bill currently going through Parliament and its proposal to create the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).
The National Union of Students (NUS), RHSU and the UCU believe that higher education, as a right, should not be subject to fees. We oppose therefore linking the grading of teaching quality to the right of institutions to increase fees. While the National Student Survey (NSS) may measure to some extent student satisfaction, few believe it can be a useful proxy for the quality of teaching, as is being planned for the TEF. Nor can employment outcomes be an accurate means of measuring teaching quality, when they are determined by so many factors.
The crude grading of teaching quality - through a gold, silver and bronze rating - will reduce the value of certain degrees and create a culture of false elitism between students. Poor or manipulated data will be used in the future to justify the raising of tuition fees, and the TEF will create another unnecessary bureaucracy to control the activities of UK universities.
The government appears less interested in genuine teaching quality, and more concerned with justifying a market orientated approach to education, intensifying competition between institutions, reducing public expenditure, and validating the troubled fee system, all at the expense of access. An emphasis on employment outcomes and student retention rates will detrimentally affect diversity in recruitment, with particular impacts on mature students and those with caring responsibilities, and has significant implications for equalities.
So far the government has not committed itself fully to equality impact assessments. It has, however, created a system that imposes high indebtedness on students while reducing lecturer pay in real terms. We believe, finally, that the introduction of the TEF will significantly undermine the linkages between teaching, scholarship and research, hurting the uniqueness and quality of teaching programmes.
Both the NUS, UCU, other stakeholders and informed opinion have campaigned against the TEF, but so far the government has refused to listen. We call on the government to withdraw the Higher Education Bill, and to begin genuine consultations on the more pressing priorities confronting universities.
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The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
Egham, TW20 0EX