Teaching hypocrisy

December 31, 2009

Is it very surprising that a study states that research-driven universities are just paying lip service to the recognition of good teaching ("Pedagogy a poor second in promotions", 10 December)? For years, the Higher Education Funding Council for England has paid lip service to the proper development of teaching expertise and the equivalent importance of teaching and learning. It has squandered more than £1 billion on 20 years' worth of initiatives, projects and blustering documents to very little effect, as other studies have indicated, precisely to protect the Russell Group et al from change.

Those resources should have been spent on supporting a statutory requirement for all institutions to develop teaching staff as professional, qualified teachers - something the Russell Group has always vigorously resisted. The money could have been used to reduce staff workloads to enable them to follow in-depth programmes of pedagogic education and training without too much extra stress. Instead, we have enthusiastic but superficial "certificate" courses that stress out staff while offering little more than survival tips - and they are not always well delivered because of a lack of commitment due to Hefce's hypocrisy.

The staff-development community has gone along with this sham, taking the Hefce shilling for the Higher Education Academy, subject centres, centres of excellence and so on, with only one or two dissenting voices. One of those voices was mine, but I also went along with it in the end. I helped to create a certificate programme, taught on one or two of them, was an external examiner, and so developed my career believing it would all have only a small effect. I am proud of what I achieved within the given limitations, but sad that I have been proved right.

Christopher O'Hagan, Emeritus professor of educational development, University of Derby.

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