On the eleventh day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my VC sent to me:
Eleven TEF Measures
Ten new professors
Nine Heads of Service
Eight interventions
Seven Senior Staff
Six Student Surveys
Five REF Stars
Four Closing Calls
Three French Exchanges
Two DVCs
And restructure of the university


Shannon looked up. It was completely dark around her, apart from the light from her screens, which was enough to illuminate the keyboard. There was no light coming through the office door. Behind her, the orange glow from the streetlights of Burston was weak and sickly. The council was using some kind of energy-saving system whereby they dimmed progressively until about 10pm, when they went out altogether.

It was dark, and almost completely silent. Occasionally, a bus went past outside, resulting in a slight rumble up here on the eighth floor, but within the building, there was nothing. No lifts, no photocopiers, no foot traffic in the corridor. Shannon shivered slightly. She really needed to go home.

For a minute, she contemplated packing up her laptop and finishing the job at home, with a glass of wine, but she knew she would probably just fall asleep on the sofa. And the big screen made it easier to have government documents open at the same time as her report. No. One last push here.

It was a ridiculous rush, anyway. She knew perfectly well that nobody would look at her report until just before the consultation closed in January. The VC was deluding himself if he thought he was going to use it to plan staffing for his new Teaching Hubs. Everyone knew that staffing would be organised in exactly the same way that children picked teams in playgrounds. The biggest hitters would take turns to choose the best researchers until their teams were full, and everyone left after that would be allocated to the teaching hubs according to their subject area. The miniscule number of cross-disciplinary teachers would pick their own hubs, probably according to who was the Hub Leader, and the job would be done. There was no way that the Teaching Excellence Framework would influence the process.

She was getting too cynical. She really needed to get another job.

Shannon sighed, and forced herself to look back at the screen.

Teaching Excellence Framework

Paper for Executive: Ten ways Burston Central University can prepare

She deleted the word ‘Ten’ and replaced it with ‘Eleven’. Another measure was on the list. The TimesHigher had splashed all over an ‘exclusive’ pre-report from the Higher Education Academy about the UK Engagement Survey. With the buzz phrase of learning gain liberally spattered all over it, she was pretty sure it was going to loom large in the final version of the Teaching Excellence Framework at least if the report was accurate in its prediction: ‘THE understands that ministers are interested in looking at the results for later stages of the TEF‘.

She scanned the magazine report again. It didn’t seem to say when the full report would be published. She’d have to use what she could for her own report. But it was very confusing. Was the study about engagement, or outcomes? Academic assessment of skills, or self-assessment of skills? How did it fit in with the latest CBI report saying that students weren’t ‘job-ready’?

“particularly in STEM subjects, students are not rating themselves highly in terms of developing soft skills”. Shannon pasted this quote into her document, and then typed: ‘One thing that course teams could consider is finding ways to highlight to students that they have developed particular soft skills. We could try some of the techniques used to point out to students that they are currently getting feedback.’feedback

She read on. Was this survey intended to replace the NSS?  ‘“You could be happy and not learn much,” the chair of the survey steering group had said, “You could be engaged and not learn much, but it’s less likely.”’ Shannon wondered if there was any evidence for this statement. How much less likely was it? Wasn’t ‘how much was learned’ exactly what academic staff were assessing? Wasn’t that the most important thing? She sighed again. How the hell could she produce a policy paper from this? She gritted her teeth and carried on. ‘If student engagement is going to be so critical, we need to put measures in place to….‘ she hit the backspace key, ‘to put systems in place to measure engagement. The proposed attendance monitoring system will do this from September 2016.’

Right. That was all eleven aspects with a proposal against them. Time to go home. She saved the document and shared it in an email to the VC. Over to him.

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One thought on “On the eleventh day of Christmas

  1. Pingback: On the twelfth day of Christmas | Wading through Treacle

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