“Teachers Excellence Framework” threatens a funding crisis for Scottish Universities

The UK government has released a Green Paper that could result in a funding crisis for Scottish universities. The paper, which states plans for a ‘Teachers Excellence Framework’ (TEF), includes contentious content detailing a fee increase for universities that score very highly. It is possible that Scottish universities will choose to increase the fees on such students in years to come, experts have warned.

Tuition for English students studying in Scotland is currently capped at £9000, but the new measure could cause Scottish universities to start falling back on funding. Reb Henthorn, NUS Scotland vice-president (education), told The Student: “NUS Scotland is particularly concerned that the introduction of TEF will lead to higher fees in England, potentially triggering another race to the top for fees in Scotland.

“RUK [the rest of the UK] students studying in Scotland already face some of the highest fees in the UK, paying up to £9,000 but over four years rather than the three years they’d be studying for elsewhere in the UK. We wouldn’t to see any university chasing every higher fees, particularly not as a result of a framework that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, even apply in Scotland.”

The funding issue is not the only one that is proving problematic. Critics have said the language of the Paper itself does not seem to be living up to its purpose. Imogen Wilson, Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) Vice President Academic Affairs told The Student: “The green paper contained the phrase ‘what employers want’ 35 times, and the words ‘academic’ or ‘teachers’ only twice, obscuring quality teaching as a primary concern.”

For Wilson, a greater fear still seems to be that TEF may allude to a wider trend of using metrics and quantitative methods to assess education at the expense of quality education and that it would be the students who would be left to bear the financial brunt of this. “There’s a danger that emphasis will shift from quality to league tables and tick boxes. The funding burden must fall on the government, not students”, she told The Student.

It is likely that measures such as student satisfaction rates, graduate employment rates and scores relating to the progress of students from minority backgrounds will be considered for this new scheme. The changes are fiercely opposed by some who feel that they would lead to the marketisation of education in Scotland.

Mr. Henthorn also criticised to the measurement as unfair. “Regardless of where you come from, access to a degree should be based only on your potential to succeed, not your ability to pay. No student should be put off a degree in Scotland due to cost or lack of support, we hope that Scottish universities, and the wider sector, will join us in rejecting the premise of the Green Paper and what it stands for”, he told The Student.

Image credit: Flickr: Jon Vrushi 

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