Following the recent release of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results, we have today launched the findings of our latest #HobsonsInsights research, examining international students’ awareness and understanding of TEF ratings.

The research surveyed 3,335 international students who have expressed an interest in studying in the UK, and found that:

  • Only 21.2% of international students claim to have heard of the TEF, while 64.4% of international students who have heard of the TEF say it has not been very well explained to them.
  • Of those that have heard of the TEF, 79.5% incorrectly believe it measures the teaching quality of both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
  • Regardless of whether students believe the TEF measures both UG and PG levels, 84.3% believe that a university with good UG teaching quality would also have good PG teaching quality.
  • 24.5% of students who are aware of the TEF incorrectly believe that a Bronze Award means teaching quality is ‘unsatisfactory’.
  • 72.6% of international students who have heard of the TEF correctly identified that ‘TEF ratings are based on statistics such as dropout rates, student satisfaction survey results and graduate employment rates’. However, 55.3% also thought ‘TEF results are based on random inspections of lectures and classes by inspectors from the Department for Education’.
  • Both international students who have heard of the TEF and those who haven’t, said they would be more likely to choose a university with a Gold TEF Award above one with high rankings. However, they would be more likely to choose a university with high rankings above one with a Silver or Bronze Award.

The results show that universities need to communicate with prospective students to increase awareness of the TEF, and help them understand what is measured and how it is assessed. TEF ratings are likely to play a significant role in international students’ decision-making, meaning it is imperative universities help them understand what the results mean and how they can be used effectively, alongside other factors, to help students choose between institutions.

For more #HobsonsInsights download a copy of the 2017 International Student Survey report at


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