Letter: ILT - free choice or forced entry? (1)

August 10, 2001

I have followed the debate on the Institute for Learning and Teaching with interest but am dismayed at the exchange of personal insults (Letters, THES , July ). If we cannot debate professionalisation versus audit culture with a vestige of professionalism, then at least we might audit our own letters to avoid descending into name-calling.

The ILT has never been openly debated by the acad-emic profession. On the few occasions when it was raised by the Association of University Teachers, the delegation was prepared to outvote the executive.

Membership rates are probably on the rise because staff are increasingly told that without ILT membership, promotion or completion of probation is not an option. My own institution seems unembarrassed by this line.

Academics are not only teachers: they are, in the first instance, researchers, not all of whom are engaged in undergraduate teaching. The AUT represents not only academics but also academic-related staff and should consider the full range of members' opinions, rather than assuming compliance.

I would like to be able to join a professional body for academic and academic-related staff working in higher education on the lines of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.

Professional recognition should include recognition of accredited training in teaching, experience and track record. It should also expect a level of recognised research in a specialism since, without specialist knowledge, the skill-based learning activities we design, maintain and deliver become a vehicle for social amnesia.

Institutions, including the funding councils and quality agency, would then be expected to provide proper training and support for academic and academic-related professional development. Recognition by the body would anticipate continuous professional development.

I have been through four training courses over the past two years, all of which have benefited my work as an academic - including teaching, research, administration and facilitation - enormously. None of them would qualify me for ILT membership.

Academics are the front-line, yet they are being treated as a production line of compliant, skilled workers, whose research is measured by the pound. I was under the impression that the AUT was in the process of developing the groundwork for just such a professional body. Is this not the case?

Ashley Tauchert
Lecturer in English
University of Exeter

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