The rhetoric of the UK higher education Teaching Excellence Framework: A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of TEF2 provider statements

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is an evaluation of teaching quality at UK universities. The aim of the TEF is to raise esteem for teaching in line with research and recognise teaching excellence. In 2017 all universities who took part in the TEF exercise were awarded ratings of gold, silver or bronze for teaching quality. These awards were based on a set of quantitative measures and a 15-page provider submission from each university to describe teaching at their institution. In this paper, we analyse the provider submissions that played a crucial role in universities’ TEF rating. We conducted a corpus-assisted discourse analysis of all of the provider statements (228 statements; 1,742,438 words) submitted by participating institutions in order to un-earth the discourse of the TEF. We found that the themes driving success in the TEF are (1) employment, (2) employability (3) student outcomes and (4) research. Recognising what discourse is rewarded in the TEF has important implications for the accepted discourse of teaching excellence in UK higher education. It is anticipated that, in future, university discourse around teaching quality will continue to be dominated by employability discourse (rather than discourse around, for instance, social goods, personal development or equity).


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalEducational Review
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2019


  • TEF, Teaching excellence framework, corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, higher education, teaching quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas