TEF results – How do REF and TEF results compare?

My first ever blog for Wonkhe was back in 2014, just after the REF results were released. I compared those results with NSS, to see if they could give us an idea of different institutions’ strategic focuses on research and teaching.

With TEF results now released, I couldn’t resist going back to this exercise to compare today’s new dataset with REF2014. Here are the results (hover over each marker to identify the university):

The REF 2014 data is the GPA intensity score for universities. For TEF, we’ve used Wonkhe’s own ’25 point scale’, which gives universities 2 points for a double positive flag on core metrics, 1 point for a single positive, 0 for a neutral score, and so on.

The best way to think about the graph is in four even quadrants. Those in the top right corner, particularly with a Gold marker, can be considered to be successful at research and teaching. It’s no surprise to see both Oxford and Cambridge leading this quadrant on the research front, whilst big TEF scorers that also had successful REFs include Surrey, Loughborough, and St Andrews. There are more institutions in this quadrant than perhaps might be expected given the strategic challenges of excelling in both REF and TEF, but many of them are towards the bottom left of the quadrant, suggesting that whilst it is possible to be very good at both TEF and REF, it takes quite another step up (or a built-in historic advantage, as with Oxbridge), to excel in both.

The bottom right corner consists of those institutions who perhaps TEF was directed at – those who may have prioritised excellence in research over teaching and student experience. LSE obviously heads this up with its Bronze rating but excellent REF scores, and is joined here by fellow Russell Group Bronze awardees Liverpool and Southampton. Also down here are SOAS and Goldsmiths, as well as those research-intensive institutions who just about squeaked a silver rating as a result of panel deliberation such as UCL and Bristol.

The top left corner are those institutions who are much less competitive at the top end of the research game but have successfully directed their priorities to teaching and student experience. The standout in the top left is Coventry, but this quadrant also includes TEF Gold winners such as Aston and Lincoln.

And finally, in the bottom left, we have those institutions struggling to make an impact in either TEF or REF. London Metropolitan University sits at the bottom here, an institution that is widely known to have endured difficulties in recent years. Other universities in this quadrant may need to look hard at their strategic focus for the coming years, and perhaps have some difficult decisions to make. Competition will only become more and more fierce.

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