The Implications for History in Higher Education of the UK Government's Proposals for a Teaching Excellence Framework”

Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:50 PM
Centennial Ballroom B (Hyatt Regency Denver)
Peter D'Sena, University of Hertfordshire
In the wake of the General Election victory for the Conservatives in the summer of 2015 the UK’s new minister for higher education revealed plans for the introduction of a new form of assessment for teaching quality at undergraduate and possibly also postgraduate level.  By 2017 the government’s intention is to use a Teaching Excellence Framework to inform its evaluations and they have subsequently mooted concomitant proposals to link high quality provision to the debatable rewards of uncapping both fee charges and limits on cohort numbers.

Already, a number of seemingly separate strategic dialogues based on different stakeholders’ interests and experiences have emerged.  The government’s insistence on a ‘light touch’ approach has led to fears amongst all disciplines that the very blunt instruments for generating institutional-wide metrics will be aggregated and lead to an undiscriminating set of judgements.  To take just one of the many examples of contention, some individuals have warned that the less resource rich universities with larger teaching groups, a greater concentration of students from ‘hard to reach’ communities, and a limited capacity to employ a legion of research-active scholars, could suffer from closure.  Influential stakeholders such as the Royal Historical Society and History UK have also voiced concerns about the potential of other unintended consequences.  It could, for instance, lead to a deterioration of the application of principles and practices in improving widening participation, especially to study in ‘upper tier’ universities.  Finally and more broadly there have also been encouraging discussions about how to ensure that the scholarship of teaching and learning in history can find a place in the mechanisms of assessment, in order to make any framework meaningful and valid.  However, one dangerous implication looms large - the potential for replicating the time-consuming and managerially-ridden structures of the government’s Research Exercise Framework.