Teaching excellence: the student perspective

As the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) moves into its third year, universities and students are becoming more familiar with the government’s new university rating system. With the year 2 ratings released in June 2017, the majority of HE providers in the UK now have a Gold, Silver, or Bronze TEF rating.

A consortium of students’ unions have come together to better understand what students across the UK think of TEF and of ‘teaching excellence’. Together with trendence UK, they have conducted the UK’s largest research project to date on students’ views of the TEF metrics.

This survey was conducted so that we can hear students’ voices on what they think of the TEF, how students themselves measure ‘teaching excellence’, and how the framework could, in its current incarnation, change the way students perceive the value of their universities and their courses.

This summer we questioned thousands of current university students, asking them to answer a range of questions about teaching experience and to give their opinions of the TEF. Some of the questions were straightforward and quantitative, others were open-ended and qualitative. This report summarises the findings.

Full report:


Project Coordinator
Ed Marsh
Chief Executive Officer
Middlesex University
Students’ Union (MDXSU)
+44 (0)20 8411 2420
This research project was conducted by trendence UK
8th Floor
Friars Bridge Court
41–45 Blackfriars Bridge
London SE1 8NZ
+44 (0)20 7654 7220
Press Quotes:
Commenting on the research, Middlesex Students’ Union Vice President Joe Cox said:
“What this research demonstrates is that whilst students want a framework that drives excellence in teaching, the current TEF doesn’t fit the bill- missing key metrics and over aggregating into unhelpful medals that students don’t understand. These findings underline the importance of OfS involving students as partners in future iterations, working with applicants, students’ unions and graduates to design a framework that is flexible enough to recognise students’ multiple motivations for entering Higher Education”
Commenting further, UEA Students’ Union Undergraduate Education Officer Mary Leishman said:
“These findings represent the first meaningful student feedback on the Government’s teaching excellence agenda, and whilst there is much that reinforces the principles of TEF, there are also signs of unintended consequences- the most worrying of which is the idea that 10% of BME students would have been put off by a “Gold” rating. It’s crucial that OfS interrogates and takes on board the lessons from the research if it is to work effectively to improve student choice and better teaching”

Union Futures

In December 2016 a group of 18 Students’ Unions jointly commissioned Alterline to do some work on the new NSS survey.

The research gathered data from some 17,000+ students across the diverse rage of institutions and has been used in a variety of ways since then to influence Students’ Unions work. At many SUs it has been used in block grant submissions and has been used as supporting evidence in lobbying work.

Julian Porch, Academic Officer at the University of York Students’ Union, wrote about the research on wonkhe- here.

With the change to the National Student Survey (NSS) question on students’ unions in the form of the new Question 26 (Q26), unions faced a fresh challenge, and opportunity, to demonstrate the extent and value of their contribution to the student experience and to academic life within UK universities. Bringing together 18 unions as part of a joint research venture, The Q26 Impact Study was the first of Alterline’s Union Futures projects and was delivered within four months, following the publication of the amended NSS questionnaire, yielding a core dataset of over 17,000 students.

The project was intended to enable participating unions to formulate a proactive response to the new NSS question prior to the initiation of the 2017 survey, as well as being a resource for reflecting and acting on the subsequent results. This report, Union Futures: The impact of NSS Q26, provides a summary of the key findings from the project for a wider audience beyond the participating unions, to allow the voice of the thousands of students who contributed to the project to be heard, as policy priorities and performance metrics in UK higher education continue to evolve.


Union Futures- SU Research on the new NSS

Research Coordinator
Ben Vulliamy
Chief Executive Officer
University of York Students’ Union
t: 01904 323727