Post #020: Academic assessment in the REF era (part IV)

Glasgow, June 30, 2018

Research is only one aspect of academic life. Teaching, public service and entrepreneurship are three other important aspects of academic activity that need to be considered as part of any activity aiming to a holistic academic assessment.

The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) is a recently-launched UK Government-backed assessment attempt of England’s higher education (HE) institutions’ undergraduate teaching quality [1]; its first results were released in 2017 [2], and the aim of it is to function as a determinant of state-funded HE institutions’ tuition fee ranges as of 2020. With an assessment of teaching excellence through teaching quality, learning environment, student outcomes and learning gain, the TEF seems to be a promising addition [3] to the academic assessment of the diverse HE system of England, but its applicability on HE in other countries might be significantly defined by its ability to stand as a model for a self-assessing (institution-based) and/or staff-assessing exercise.

On the other hand, the assessment of the benefits that a HE institution offers to the local society and the public (wider society) as the result of its academic output and affiliated services is a complex and neglected aspect of academic life. Although the principles reflected in initiatives such as the Public Service Improvement Framework (PSIF) [4] might have some applicability on HE institutions, the development of a more comprehensive and specialized approach to the assessment of HE-provided public service is required.

Finally, the assessment of the HE institution’s capacity to stimulate, support and engage in the development of entrepreneurship in collaboration with the industry has not been a topic of intense debate or standardization yet. This is an aspect of academic life that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has focused on through its Guiding Framework for Entrepreneurial Universities in 2012 [5], but which HE institutions rarely prioritise and fund as a sort of exercise.

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Notes: [1]: HE institutions from other UK parts were also allowed to participate to the TEF exercise if they chose to; [2]: the 2017 TEF results were considered as trial ones that would allow for a revision (2018 TEF) and further subject-specific development of the platform (to be introduced from 2020); [3]: considering that the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is also already in place; [4]: PSIF is a self-assessment performance improvement framework developed by Improvement Service (a national improvement service for local government in Scotland), and launched in 2006; [5]: the Guiding Framework for Entrepreneurial Universities is a self-assessment framework of guidelines that was developed as a collaborative project between the OECD Local Economic and Employment Development Programme (LEED Programme) and the Directorate-General for Education and Culture (currently, Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture) of the European Commission.

Citation: Zarros A. Post #020: Academic assessment in the REF era (part IV). azarros.info/blog 2018; 30-Jun.