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Information about the TEF subject pilot

The Department for Education (DfE) published the TEF subject pilot specification on 20 July 2017. HEFCE is implementing this pilot on behalf of the DfE during the 2017-18 academic year. 

The pilot will inform the future development of the TEF by testing how ratings could be assigned at subject level as well as institutional level. This has the potential to provide students with more detailed information to inform their choices of where to study.

The design of subject-level TEF is based on TEF Year Two but will include a number of changes outlined in the DfE’s lessons learned exercise.

The first subject pilot will run between autumn 2017 and summer 2018, and will evaluate how two models generate subject-level TEF ratings. It will not interact with TEF Year Three. No subject-level ratings will be published. 

Metrics and teaching intensity resources

DfE will shortly be carrying out a technical consultation to inform the future development of TEF at subject level. To assist providers across the sector in responding effectively to the DfE consultation, HEFCE has now made the following resources available to all providers:

  • Subject-level metrics for individual providers
  • Technical information relating to subject-level metrics
  • Guidance on measuring teaching intensity.

All higher education providers can access a confidential copy of their own illustrative subject-level TEF metrics, based on Year Three data, which have been generated within the pilot exercise. These are available to download from the extranet.

Download technical information relating to subject-level metrics

Download the TEF subject pilot metrics specification and rebuild as PDF (477 KB)

Please note that the technical specification of the metrics applies only for the purposes of the TEF Year Three subject pilots. The metrics should therefore be considered as illustrative only. They have been shared with providers to help inform their response to DfE’s consultation on subject-level TEF. They are not intended for operational purposes beyond participation in the pilots: all definitions remain subject to change following findings from the pilots and DfE’s consultation activities that the metrics release seeks to inform.

Download guidance on the measures of teaching intensity currently being piloted

Download the Measuring teaching intensity - Guidance for providers as PDF (607 KB)

Please note that the guidance on teaching intensity has been developed only to support providers who are taking part in the TEF Year Three subject pilots, and reflects only those measures currently being piloted. The guidance does not represent the final approach, processes or policy decisions. 

About the subject pilot

Timetable of the pilot

Key features of the pilot's models

 Model AModel B

Metrics will be released for the 35 subjects and are the same for both models. The calculation and presentation of metrics and benchmarks will mirror TEF Year Three.

HEFCE will identify subjects by mapping Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) and Learn Direct Classification System (LDCS) to level 2 of the HECoS common aggregation hierarchy.

For single subject providers, subject-level metrics are identical to their provider-level metric. See paragraphs 6.2.6 and 6.3.5 of the pilot specification for full details.

Subject-level assessment

Assessment at subject level is 'by exception'. Subjects are awarded the same rating as the provider, where the initial hypothesis is the same. There is fuller assessment (and potentially different ratings) for subjects where their initial hypothesis differs from the provider.

Assessment is 'bottom-up': each subject is fully assessed to give subject-level ratings. These feed into the provider-level assessment and rating.

Number of providers to participate

19 providers solely participating in model A

19 providers solely participating in model B

12 providers participating in both models

Provider submissions

A provider-level assessment is retained in both models (please note below the refinement to submissions where at least 35 per cent of students are part-time)

A provider-level submission of up to 15 pages (covering all 10 TEF criteria)

A provider-level submission of up to 10 pages, covering TEF criteria:

  • TQ2: Valuing Teaching
  • LEI: Resources and SO3
  • Positive Outcomes for All

Subject identification and submissions

The 35 CAH2 subjects are used for subject-level metrics, submissions (where they are identified as exceptions), and subject-level ratings.

The 35 CAH2 subjects are used for subject-level metrics and ratings.

Model B maps the 35 subjects into 7 subject groups, which are used for submissions.

Subject submissions can include up to 5 pages per subject (where identified as exceptions).

There are 7 subject group submissions. These will have a variable maximum page length (between 5 and 13 pages) depending on the number of subjects the provider delivers within the subject group.

Teaching intensity

As part of the subject pilot, HEFCE will also pilot two teaching intensity measures, exploring how to collect data on issues such as class size and contact time, and their potential use to inform a subject TEF assessment. The teaching intensity pilot will be limited to full-time undergraduates.

The DfE’s subject pilot specification indicated that the subjects provisionally selected for the teaching intensity pilot would be reviewed. Having examined the breadth of provision at the selected providers, and in order to ensure all provider types are included, the following changes have been made: Business and management will be in scope in place of Law; Engineering will be in scope in place of Physics and astronomy. Therefore the subjects in scope for the teaching intensity pilot are:

  • Nursing
  • Engineering
  • Creative arts and design
  • History and archaeology
  • Business and management.


In order to capture information on the cost of implementing subject-level TEF, HEFCE will provide a costing tool for providers to complete.

Refinements following lessons learned

The DfE has published a summary of refinements to be made to the provider-level TEF following the lessons learned from TEF Year Two. These refinements will, where appropriate, be carried forward into the pilot at both provider level and subject level.

In particular:

  • The weighting of NSS metrics will be halved
  • Very high and very low absolute values will be explicitly marked and taken account of by panellists    
  • Supplementary metrics derived from Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data will be included
  • Any alterations to the benchmarking factors set out in the forthcoming TEF specification will apply to both provider- and subject-level metrics.
  • Where at least 35 per cent of students are part-time, the provider will have the opportunity to submit an additional page of quantitative information in their provider submission. This additional page will not apply to subject submissions
  • The grade inflation metric will be implemented in the pilot. However, the approach to generating the metric will be different to TEF Year Three
  • The processes involving the Director for Fair Access and Power of referral will not be included in the pilot.
View the list of participating providers

Subject pilot participants

The providers participating in the Year Three subject pilot have now been selected. Due to the strong interest in the subject pilot, it was decided to increase the size of the pilot from 40 to 50 providers. Therefore the make-up of the pilot will be:

  • Model A – 19 providers
  • Model B – 19 providers
  • Both model A and model B – 12 providers

The full list of selected participants in each model can be found below:

Model A participants

Model B participants

Participants in models A & B

Bath Spa University

Chichester College


Glynd┼Ár University

Hertford Regional College

Imperial College London

Kingston College

Liverpool John Moores University

London Metropolitan University

London School of Management Education Limited

Open University


University of Bedfordshire

University of Cambridge

University of Essex

University of Hull

University of Nottingham

University of St Andrews

Warwickshire College Group

Abingdon and Witney College

Arts University Bournemouth

Furness College

Glasgow School of Art

Kaplan Open Learning (Essex) Limited

Leeds Beckett University

Leeds Trinity University

London School of Economics and Political Science

London South Bank University

New College Durham

School of Oriental and African Studies

South and City College Birmingham

Swansea University

Tyne Coast College

University of Exeter

University of Hertfordshire

University of Leicester

University of Portsmouth

University of Westminster

Bishop Grosseteste University

Bromley College of Further and Higher Education

De Montfort University

Nelson College London Limited

Pearson College Limited

St George’s, University of London

University of Birmingham

University of Bradford

University of East Anglia

The University of Law

University of Northumbria at Newcastle

University of Wolverhampton

Selecting pilot participants

HEFCE’s aim in selecting the Year Three pilot participants was to create a sample to effectively test the features of the TEF subject pilot that represents, as far as possible, the overall profile of providers in the higher education sector.

Our final selection was based on whether providers had suitable data, the model(s) in which providers wished to participate and the key characteristics set out in the Department for Education’s TEF: Subject-level pilot specification. Our selection includes a spread of providers in terms of:

  • provider size and subject breadth
  • operational type (i.e. higher education institutions, further education colleges and alternative providers)
  • the type of student being taught
  • TEF Year Two ratings (including a spread of providers with gold, silver, bronze and provisional awards, and some providers who did not participate in TEF Year Two)
  • the nation in which providers are based.

The sample of selected providers was finalised with advice from the TEF Project Board.

Download the TEF Project Board's terms of reference

Download the TEF Project Board August 2017 as PDF (29 KB)

Subject pilot panel members

Subject pilot panel members

The subject pilot main panel and seven subject panels are responsible for generating ratings and contributing feedback to inform evaluation of the Year Three subject pilot. The pilot is exploratory and ratings will not be published.

The panels comprise academics, students, widening participation (WP) experts and representatives from employers and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs).

Main panel members


Professor Janice Kay

Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter

Main panel members

Professor Kathleen Armour

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Birmingham

Professor Patrick Bailey

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, London South Bank University

Professor Paul Bartholomew

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Ulster

Professor Amanda Chetwynd

Provost, University of Lancaster

Mark Harris

Dean of Higher Education, Stockport College

Professor Helen Higson

Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Aston University

Professor Christopher Hughes

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Warwick

Professor Becky Huxley-Binns

Vice-Provost, Academic Enhancement, The University of Law Limited

Dr Jan Johnson-Smith

Higher Education Academic Lead, The University Centre, Sheffield College 

Professor Mary Malcolm

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), University of Bedfordshire

Ross Renton (WP expert)

Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Worcester 

Professor Liz Thomas (WP expert)

Professor of Higher Education, Edge Hill University 

Main panel members who are also Subject panel chairs and deputy chairs

Subject panel role

Professor Julia Clarke

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Business and Law), Manchester Metropolitan University

Chair - Business and Law

Lewis Cleminson

Vice-President (Education), Southampton Solent Students' Union

Deputy Chair - Engineering and Technology

Peter Cowan

Vice-President, The Open University Students' Association

Deputy Chair - Humanities

Diarmuid Cowan

Students' Union President, Heriot-Watt University

Deputy Chair - Social Sciences

Josh Gulrajani

Former Students' Union Vice-President (Education), University of Essex

Deputy Chair - Business and Law

Professor Carol Hall

Director of Undergraduate Education, School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham

Chair - Medical and Health Sciences

Professor Nick Lieven

Professor of Aircraft Dynamics, University of Bristol

Chair - Engineering and Technology

Martha Longdon

Students' Union President, Nottingham Trent University

Deputy Chair - Natural Sciences

Aaron Lowman

Former Students' Union Vice-President, Brunel University London

Deputy Chair - Medical and Health Sciences

Professor April McMahon

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Kent

Chair - Humanities

Professor Susan Orr

Dean of Learning and Teaching Enhancement and Professor of Creative Practice Pedagogy, University of the Arts London

Chair - Arts

James Perkins

Former Vice-President (Education), City University London Students' Union

Deputy Chair - Arts

Professor Sue Rigby

Vice-Chancellor, Bath Spa University

Chair - Natural Sciences

Professor Neil Ward

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs), University of East Anglia

Chair - Social Sciences

View the full list of pilot subject panel members

Download the TEF subject pilot subject panels as PDF (166 KB)

Briefings and guidance for providers

HEFCE delivered a number of subject pilot briefings for providers during September 2017. The briefing slides and further information for providers can be accessed below.

Watch the TEF subject pilot briefing slides with audio commentary

Download the TEF subject pilot briefing slides

Download the TEF subject pilot briefing slides as PDF (925 KB)

Read the DfE's TEF subject pilot specification

Page last updated 14 February 2018