On Monday afternoon, Leeds Union activists ran a stall outside Essentials in a bid to register students for NUS’s forthcoming national demonstration. The apron wearing, tin can wielding campaigners petitioned under the banner ‘TEFCO’ in an attempt to highlight the marketisation of higher education widely associated with Theresa May’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) initiative.
Since May was appointed in July, she and her cabinet have endeavoured to reform British education through a series of controversial schemes. Of such schemes, TEF has been among the most widely criticised.
TEF will serve as a format for assessing the quality of an educational institution, empowering government quangos to rank universities on their teaching standards. Critics have argued that the framework operates under “arbitrary metrics”, including average graduate salary and performance on the National Student Survey.
Universities will be awarded gold, silver or bronze medals, which will authorise certain establishments to raise tuition fees if they are deemed examples of academic “excellence”. More significantly, campaigners argue that TEF represents the diminishment of academic sovereignty as the government will gain greater control of what universities can and cannot teach.
The demonstration will be conducted in London on the 19th. It costs just £5 to go as LUU has subsidised the excursion.
Opponents of TEF regard the initiative as an attack on all the principles that make Britain a global superpower of higher education. A £5 day-trip to London seems to be a small price to pay to defend them.