Money for nothing?

October 3, 2003

So, farewell to the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education ("ILTHE to vote on disbanding", THES , September 19). The business of improving teaching and learning by encouraging staff to develop as reflective professionals seems about to pass, inter alia , to the proposed Higher Education Academy.

Criteria for ILTHE membership have much in common with the schoolteachers' threshold scheme, launched in 1999. By the end of 2000, about 200,000 teachers had applied and most were successful. Since then, uptake has been nearly 100 per cent.

There are, however, key differences. Passing the threshold costs the teacher nothing, while the ILTHE demands an application fee and an annual subscription of Pounds 85. Only a sample of teacher applications goes to an external assessor, but all ILTHE applications are scrutinised. Teachers clearing the threshold gain more than Pounds 2,000 a year. Acceptance to ILTHE membership brings no financial benefit. This is perverse because the Dearing report, which spawned the ILTHE, drew attention to poor rewards for teaching.

The government used the threshold scheme to relieve pressure on schoolteachers yet avoid being seen to be paying them something extra for nothing. In contrast, higher education staff are expected to part with hard-earned cash for imperceptible benefit. Perhaps there is an incentive I have missed. If not, we should expect the HEA to follow the ILTHE into oblivion.

John Gee
Capel Dewi, Ceredigion

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