Government Plans For Universities Will Have ‘Severe Ramifications’ Says NUS Open Letter

Wednesday morning, NUS and members of students’ unions across the UK published an open letter condemning the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The letter, which was published on the Guardian, entitled “TEF is an unreliable test for university teaching”, is a rallying cry against the government’s proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and has the backing of hundreds of students and NUS delegates.

It directly calls on Vice Chancellors to join the debate and take a proactive stance against the government’s “harmful changes” to higher education.

What is TEF?

The aim of TEF, according to the government, is to ensure all students receive an excellent standard of teaching. The framework the government is proposing would allow them to monitor and assess the quality of teaching at universities and provide both students and employers with information on the status of institutions.

They also propose linking TEF to tuition fees, so universities that are assessed and achieve a high TEF rating will be allowed to raise fees – whereas those who achieve lowers scores will be unable to.

Each university’s quality score would be calculated using various measures such as degree results, employment data and information from the National Student Survey.

Who wrote the letter and what they want.

The open letter was signed by 55 SUs, plus the National Union of Students. 206 representatives’ names feature in total.

The authors of the letter state that TEF “aims to link tuition fee rises to an assessment of teaching quality according to questionable metrics” and claim that it will have “severe ramifications” on higher education and will ultimately entrench inequality.

They predict that tuition fees could reach £11,697 by 2025-26 if TEF were implemented.

The letter suggests the poorest students will be hit hardest and claims that 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are already 2.4 times less likely to apply to university. It’s argued that with the implementation of TEF and the scrapping of maintenance grants, these figures could worsen.

The authors of the letter instead propose a “partnership” between students and HE staff to assess and improve teaching quality, not a framework calculated from external sources and bodies.

They express how important it is for VCs to “add their voices” to what is described as “the most significant shakeup of higher education in decades”.

When will the Teaching Excellence Framework be implemented? 

At the moment TEF is still in its planning phase, but it is expected to be introduced in 2017/2018. The proposal currently only applies to England, not the whole of the UK, but this could change.

Did representatives from your university sign the open letter?

Members of the Students’ Unions associated with the following universities did. We’ve listed them in alphabetical order:

Aberdeen University

Anglia Ruskin University

University of the Arts London

University of Bath

University of Birkbeck

Bournemouth University

University of Bradford

University of Bristol

University of Brunel

University of Cambridge

Canterbury Christ Church University
University of Chester
City College Norwich

Coventry University

University for the Creative Arts

De Montfort University

University of Derby

University of East Anglia

University of East London

Edge Hill University

University of Edinburgh


University of Keele

King’s College London

Lancaster University

University of Leeds

University of Liverpool

University of Manchester

Manchester Metropolitan University

University of Middlesex

University of Northampton

University of Northumbria

University of Nottingham

University of Oxford
Oxford Brookes University

University of Plymouth

University of Portsmouth

Queen Margaret University

University of Reading

Robert Gordon University

Royal College of Art

Royal Holloway, University of London
University of Sheffield

Sheffield Hallam University

University of Southampton

Staffordshire University

University of Strathclyde

University of Sunderland

University of Sussex
Swansea University


University of Warwick
University of the West of England
University of the West of Scotland
University of York