Russell Group universities are committed to openness, accountability and transparency. However, university autonomy is crucial. Government regulation should be light touch so as not to tie up universities in red tape.

Significant reforms to HE regulation include the creation of the Office for Students (OfS) and the development of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Office for Students

The OfS came into operation for the 2018/19 academic year and a new regulatory framework will be implemented in September 2019. The OfS is designed to create a single regulatory gateway, bringing together existing functions of Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and the Director for Fair Access in relation to teaching standards, market entry and widening participation in higher education (HE).

The protection and promotion of students’ interests should be front and centre of the new regulatory framework. This should include maintaining a robust baseline on quality, good governance and financial sustainability for all HE providers, and protecting the diversity of provision across the sector.

The OfS should consider how to promote the health of UK HE as a single entity. The quality of the education students receive will be diminished if we do not have an HE sector with high-quality staff, excellent research, links to businesses and local communities, and international partnerships. 

Russell Group has set out priorities on which the OfS should focus.


Teaching Excellence Framework

The results of the trial year of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) were published in June 2017. However, developing a robust TEF, which is truly reflective of the UK’s excellent higher education sector, will take time.

Our members provide an outstanding student experience where teaching is enhanced by access to world-class research and facilities.

The announcement earlier this year of an independent review of the TEF process was welcome. We want applicants to have all the information they need to make the right choice for them but there is more work to be done here.

TEF does not measure absolute quality and we have raised concerns that the current approach to flags and benchmarking could have a significant unintended impact. Applicants need clear guidance about what TEF results mean and how they should be interpreted to aid decision-making.

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