Dr Richard Boffey, Head of AccessHE at London Higher said:
“For better or for worse, the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) makes judgements about where the highest quality provision in the English higher education sector is to be found. But as this important HEPI paper shows, a TEF ‘Gold’ award may not necessarily reflect gold-standard provision, at least as far as students from socio-economically deprived backgrounds are concerned. The outcomes gaps in HE for Free School Meals (FSM) -eligible students appear to be no different at ‘Gold’-rated providers than at those rated ‘Silver’ or ‘Bronze’ and this is despite ‘Gold’-rated providers recruiting far smaller proportions of FSM-eligible students. This raises fundamental questions about what the designation of teaching excellence really means and which providers within the sector are doing the ‘heavy lifting’ in supporting disadvantaged students.
The role of London higher education (HE) specifically when it comes to supporting FSM students is made abundantly clear by the paper, which indicates that 14 of the 20 providers with the highest proportion of FSM-eligible entrants are based in the capital. With the demand for HE amongst this group of students set to rise exponentially faster in London than in any other English region and the majority expected to remain in London to study, the already significant role played by London HE will only become more pronounced in coming years. The paper makes some practical suggestions around re-apportioning targeted funding to these institutions to enable them to offer high-quality support to disadvantaged students, which would certainly help to redress the current imbalance. But this must be accompanied by a sector-wide discussion about the place of social mobility in how we define ‘excellence’ in teaching, learning and student outcomes.”