The New TEF Awards – Part 1: First impressions

The very first Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) outcomes for universities and colleges across the UK, released in June 2017 sent shockwaves through the traditional higher education hierarchy. Many of the UK’s leading universities failed to achieve the highest awards in the assessment, finding themselves outranked by other institutions many of which were smaller or more specialist ones.

As customer and marketing strategists specialising in education, we have been following the developments with interest as the composition and presentation of the award is arguably as much a customer satisfaction and market positioning vehicle as a reflection of teaching quality.

We were interested to see how the institutions responded to the outcomes, to establish an initial gauge on public response and we took the opportunity to drill down on the marketing presentation of the outcomes amongst those institutions receiving a gold award.

Whilst there are few surprises at the strategic responses, our research demonstrates a surprising variance in how different institutions are using their digital channels to engage with key stakeholders and prospective students – a major opportunity missed by some.

Crucially, our data suggests public interest had dropped markedly after the announcement and some proactivity may be required by those institutions for whom the awards are considered beneficial.

First impressions

Institutional response – Whilst many of the 59 institutions awarded “Gold” can now claim to be amongst the best in the country, unsurprisingly they have led the pack on publicising the award, whilst those in the “Silver” and “Bronze” categories have exercised some level of damage limitation by criticising or ignoring the results, whilst some have gone on to appeal.

Public response – Google Trends shows that interest in the TEF was little to non-existent throughout the first few months of 2017. However, as this trends graph shows, there was a short-lived spike in demand for searches for “TEF” and “Teaching excellence framework”.

This spike in demand represented an opportunity for gold ranked institutions to increase awareness of their status through engagement via their digital channels. It was an opportunity most institutions took advantage of, with varying results. However, the analysis suggests that traction with the public generally may benefit from attention, either collectively or individually as interest fell rapidly after the initial launch period.

See our next blog for the more detailed analysis & insight

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