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    Staff perceptions of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in a post-92 institution

    Graham, S (2019) Staff perceptions of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in a post-92 institution. Doctoral thesis (EdD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    The Higher Education and Research Act (2017) marked a substantive change to the UK Higher Education (HE) landscape. The Act purported to strengthen the value of quality teaching through the creation of the metricised Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). TEF has since impacted significantly on policy and strategic decision-making within HEIs, but there remains limited research into the views of academic staff on their perceptions of the impacts of the framework. This interpretivist study focused on a post-92 institution shortly after it received its first TEF award. In-depth, semi structured interviews conducted with nine academics, each interviewed twice, during two distinct periods of the ‘TEF2’ and ‘TEF3’ awards. Thematic analysis identified several key areas that influenced academic viewpoints, relating to staff development, metrics, accountability and marketisation. Participants’ main concerns centred around their ‘readiness’ for the TEF and a need for an institutional commitment to staff development in order to enhance teaching quality. The motives behind the introduction of the TEF were broadly welcomed, due to the acknowledgment of the importance of teaching. However, concerns were expressed that its implementation was a regulatory mechanism, with participants interpreting this as an extension of accountability culture within HE. The narratives are contextualised using Foucault’s views of neo-liberal governmentality and associated fetishization of metrics. This type of environment is already present in other public sector organisations, driven by competition for desirable metric outcomes. The research concludes that the TEF had profound impacts on both managed academics and academic managers. It was perceived as a means to further solidify 4 the move towards marketisation of HE, through over-simplified categorisation of institutions creating a form of governmentality that employed discipline power to achieve metric outcomes. The framework was viewed as an overall negative contribution to HE as it contributes to a culture of dataveillance and performance management, underpinned by discipline power.

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