Government’s plans to link TEF to tuition fees rejected!
Plans to use the Teaching Excellence Framework to increase tuition fees was unexpectedly rejected by the House of Lords last night.
Credit: Maurice - FlickrThe House of Lords have unexpectedly shot down the government’s controversial plans to link university 'performance' with annual tuition fee increases.
They voted 263 to 211 in favour of an amendment to the Higher Education Bill that would see ties between TEF and fees severed. It would also make it illegal for the government to use TEF as a way to limit a university's intake of international students.
Under the government’s current plans, the TEF would grade universities each year, awarding them ‘gold’, ‘silver' or ‘bronze’ ratings depending on how well they fare. Those unis achieving gold or silver ratings would be allowed to raise fees in line with inflation, whilst those awarded bronze would only be permitted to increase them by 50%.
For months, Save the Student has been raising awareness of the danger of linking TEF with fees as we, like many others, believe the criteria proposed for measuring ‘excellence’ doesn’t reflect excellence at all - here’s why.
Back in December, we ran a survey to find out how much students knew about the government’s plans, and were shocked to find that as much as 87% of you had no idea that TEF was being used to justify tuition fee increases.
What the House of Lords think of TEF
It was encouraging to see that the House of Lords shared our concerns about TEF not being up to the job.
One member of House, Lord Lipsey, called the TEF a ‘mess’, and accused the government of linking it to fees in a way that would only turn universities and students against them. He said:
When the TEF is such a self-evident mess, why put all your money on having the fees link, which will make people even angrier at the effects of the TEF? Why not show a little patience?
Another member of the House, Lord Kerslake, agreed that the whole process has been rushed, and that even the government themselves don’t seem confident in how it will work.
The government had announced that from September 2017, all universities would be allowed to increase tuition fees in what they had deemed two ‘trial years’ whilst they assessed how the TEF would work in practice.
Lord Kerslake has said:
The TEF is not ready. There is not yet a settled methodology. Indeed, the very fact that the Government have agreed to a fundamental review this summer, including how the metrics are flagged, the balance between the metrics and the provider submissions, and the number and names of the ratings, tells us that we are some way off where we need to be on this.
What happens now?
So this is the difficult bit - at this stage, we really don’t know!
Whilst the House of Lords rejecting the ties between TEF and fees is massive, the way our parliamentary system works means everything is still not set in stone.
Now that the Lords have rejected the link between TEF and fees, the government will have to go back to the drawing board again, and MPs will have to vote on these amendments to the bill. This will then go back to House of Lords once more - it’s like a game of Higher Ed ping pong, really!
You'll be relying on your MP to vote in a way that represents you when this goes back to the House of Commons, so however you feel about the TEF - write to your MP and tell them!
There’s also no indication what this could mean for fees going up this autumn, as it was agreed that all universities opting in for TEF would be allowed to raise fees to £9,250/year from September, and again to £9,500 the following year.
Does this mean fees won’t be going up after all? Watch this space - we’ll keep you posted!