Potential difference 1

July 8, 2005

I wonder at stories that accuse the Higher Education Academy of failing to do things it was not set up to do ("Put lecturers first, academy told", July 1). My friend and colleague Ron Barnett is wrong to say that its purpose was to be a professional body for lecturers. That was the rationale for the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

The academy's focus is different. It works with universities and colleges to make the student learning experience better. We are also an inclusive organisation. We take account of all individuals, whether they are vice-chancellors or part-time administrative staff. Last week, we welcomed some 500 people to our annual conference, all of them practising professionals. If we lacked popular support, they wouldn't have come. If they were sceptics, they kept it well hidden when they gave rousing ovations to our keynote speakers.

Our focus on the student learning experience means we engage at least 45,000 academics through our 24 subject centres, and we intend to reach out to everyone who works in higher education in the next five years. We have no time for the idea that badgering intelligent individuals about the need to improve their teaching skills will lead to better student learning.

Instead of telling people to change, we will help institutions to build the conditions in which their staff can support learning effectively.

The confidence expressed by governments, funding bodies, our council, discipline groups, university managers and staff signals the academy's enormous potential - and points to the bright future of a better experience for all our students.

Paul Ramsden
Chief executive
Higher Education Academy

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