View from the boardroom: Martin Edmondson

Jun 11, 2019 | Sector & policy

As a graduate recruiter do you work with gold, silver or bronze universities? Do you even know, and does it matter? As you will probably be aware the gold, silver and bronze ranking of universities comes from the TEF, or to give it its full name, the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework. Surely the acronym for that should be TESOF, I hear you say, but it remains TEF as the ‘student outcomes’ bit was added later when everyone realised that was what it was mainly about.

I mention the TEF because it has been with us for three years and is currently being reviewed by Dame Shirley Pearce. As part of this review Dame Shirley joined us for a recent ISE board meeting to sample employer opinion and build on the input Stephen Isherwood is providing as part of the review panel. This started me thinking about how the TEF has changed the university landscape in the last three years, and the implications and opportunities that flow out of this for student employers.


HE implications

Within higher education it is fair to say that views are mixed about the existence of the TEF, but like it or not it has changed behaviour and practice within universities. When a HE provider applies for TEF they have to demonstrate their performance against a set of key metrics and policy goals, and they do this through a fixed set of data KPIs and a narrative section where they describe their work.

As a result, senior management teams at universities are re-shaping their strategies and their university activity to deliver against these metrics – and given many of those metrics relate to graduate destinations it has put employability even more at the forefront of HE strategy.

TEF was not designed for employers, and as such may not seem immediately accessible or relevant, but its goals are remarkably closely aligned with those of many graduate recruiters.


Benefits to employers

It seeks to draw out where universities deliver employable graduates, and in particular how they perform in supporting and transforming the prospects of students from minority backgrounds – whether this be related to ethnicity or social status.

Each university has to report on performance against a benchmarked group of institutions in terms of how students from such under-represented groups perform in the graduate labour market. Simultaneously graduate recruiters are striving to source and hire more diverse student groups, and bolster their social mobility credentials. This alignment of purpose represents a major opportunity for both employers and universities.

We will also shortly see the arrival of subject level TEF results, where individual university courses will be rated via similar metrics – opening up the student conundrum of whether it is better to go to a gold course at a bronze university or a bronze course at a gold university. The same dilemma arguably then exists for recruiters too – which of those makes sense to focus on?

The answer lies in the data and its common metrics, and the narrative which makes it more straightforward to establish shared strategy.

In essence what this opens up is a far more granular, data driven and intelligent methodology for recruiters to identify universities to work with.

Perhaps this could be made even easier by the TEF review panel if they were to include some recommendations around how TEF data might be presented and available in a more employer-friendly fashion. Such a move could benefit recruiters, build stronger employer partnerships for universities and ultimately drive even more value for students.

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