Monthly Archives: November 2016

Teaching Excellence Framework: Brief lessons from the 1990s

The Additional Guidance for Year 2 of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) was published earlier this week. In many respects the TEF is very different to the Teaching Quality Assessment of the 1990s, but it has been interesting spending time this morning reading two articles from that period. I was starting my undergraduate degree when the first article was published and working on my PhD at the time of the second.

To quote Cicero:

Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur?
Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?
Variant translation: To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child.
Chapter XXXIV, section 120 Cicero Orator Ad M. Brutum 46BC

And a few quotes from the articles in question:

Nevil Johnson (1994). Dons in Decline: Who Will Look After the Cultural Capital? 2Oth Century British History 5 (3): 370-385

Measurement has by now become an obsession of the present government, a litany recited with unreflecting dogmatism day in, day out. (p.378)

It no longer really matters how well an academic teaches and whether he or she sometimes inspires their pupils; it is far more important that they have produced plans of their courses, bibliographies, outlines of this, that and the other, in short all the paraphernalia of futile bureaucratization required for assessors who come from on high like emissaries from Kafka's castle. (p.379)

Cris Shore and Susan Wright (1999). Audit Culture and Anthropology: Neo-Liberalism in British Higher Education. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 5, No. 4 pp.

Thus, even though the audit explosion has encouraged cynicism and staged performance, it is very hard for individuals or institutions to escape its influence. (p.570)

Anthropology's predicament recalls that of Joseph K, the protagonist in Kafka's The Trial. Part of the reason he was so powerless was because he was unable to identify and therefore challenge the reason for his arrest. And because he never understood the system of power to which he was subjected, all his resolve dissipated and he eventually went meekly and willingly to his own execution. The lesson for anthropology in the new neo-liberal 'trial' is that we have become the agents through which power operates and unless we wish to follow in the steps of Joseph K, we would do well to engage in more political reflexivity (p.572)

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