While the £315 million funding for the Cetl project was the largest of any recent initiative that failed to improve university teaching standards, it is by no means unique.
Greybeards and silver rinses will recall the £10 million spent on the Computers in Teaching Initiative (established 1989) and the £40 million-odd funding for the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (established 1992-93), but hardly any will be able to cite examples of successful and lasting developments flowing from them. Big money for few "deliverables delivered", as the Hefce argot would have it.
It wasn't always so. Consider the £3 million for the Microelectronics Education Programme (1980-86), an initiative inspirationally directed by the late Richard Fothergill under the aegis of the Council for Educational Technology. It developed a mass of high-class resources that formed the basis for significant curriculum development and ensured that many students who entered higher education in the 1990s were more computer-savvy than those teaching them.
Or take the Teaching More Students Project (1992 et seq.). This comprised an expert team of discipline-related practitioners, recruited and directed by Graham Gibbs, then based at the Educational Methods Unit at Oxford Polytechnic, with the aim of helping teachers throughout higher education to address the problems arising from the rapid expansion of student numbers in the early 1990s.
The initial funding, which delivered hundreds of training days to thousands of university teachers, was less than £100,000, and total funding, as I recall, was under £150,000 (the project ran until 1999). Yet unusually for many centrally funded projects, it was received extremely positively by participants across the binary divide, and the excellent workshop materials it generated are still produced and sold today.
Trevor Habeshaw, Bristol