Wednesday, June 28, 2017

new idea for TEF

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) attempts to measure teaching quality by looking at a collection of metrics obtained from universities, and universities recently received (provisional) gold/silver/bronze ratings. Metrics include NSS scores, dropout rates, and employment destinations. An article in the Times Higher on “what makes a gold university”, notes that TEF scores correlate poorly with REF scores but well with NSS scores. An article in the Guardian noted “critics argue that none of the indicators directly measure teaching quality”. Here, I suggest as a new metric, the salaries of people doing the teaching.

I thought of this metric from reading the Guardian article, which quotes Universities minister Jo Johnson as saying that TEF is supposed to give teaching the same status as research. Salary is a good measure of status. As a measure of quality, the general principle (of judging the value of something in terms of what you put in rather than what you get out) is widespread elsewhere: institutions measure research in terms of research funding received, and similarly, buildings, other infrastructure projects, and company bosses are commonly described in terms of their cost (treating cost as a proxy for value, or quality).

Specifically, I recommend using the median salary of members of staff involved with teaching. (Note, I suggest the median, not the mean.) Concerning what it should mean to be involved with teaching, there are various options, since the median is fairly robust to tampering with the data. One option is to just let every member of staff assess the extent of his/her own level of teaching as a fraction of their work.

Overall, the effect of this metric would be to encourage universities to save money on central administration and other expenses. Talking of which, this Guardian article on the high profit margins in academic publishing is well worth reading. It does a good job of explaining the historic background to the problem, and the bad incentives that cause so much to be spent on academic journals.

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