Letter: QAA: a lesson in losing friends (2)

April 20, 2001

Surely there are better ways of improving teaching and learning than by creating an unwieldy centralised bureaucracy (the TQA) with a fuzzy mission that cost £100 million ("Worthy project or just a game?", THES , March 30) .

For example, a back-of-envelope calculation reveals that each university could have been given a cool £1 million with the sole aim of improving teaching. With this, they could offer 50 "teaching excellence fellowships (TEFs)", each worth £20,000 in addition to salary to lecturers across the departmental range.

It would be decentralised as each university could devise its own internal competition mechanism for the optimal allocation of TEFs.

At the end of the academic year, fellows in each discipline would circulate their teaching materials among themselves and on the basis of the submitted material determine the best-practice code for their discipline. The best course materials would be circulated to all universities and the best-practice code would be publicised to current and potential students and employers.

Notice again the decentralised nature of the scheme: no external assessors required, no administrative paperwork, but instead lecturers chosen by their peers reporting back to their peers, with their own credibility at stake.

Each university is free not to adopt the codes in the knowledge that students (and their potential employers, including the research funding councils) can compare the teaching product on offer with a credible benchmark. Again, no rankings, no box ticking, no league tables, simply the empowering of lecturers and students alike.

I am sure such a scheme would be (a) vastly superior to the current nonsense and (b) stand no chance of being adopted for the simple reason that it bypasses the coalition of government officials, university administrators and compliant academics with a vested interest in a bureaucratic, centralised and punitive system of teaching control.

Manfredi La Manna
Reader in economics
University of St Andrews

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