A licence to fail

September 25, 1998

I read with a growing sense of despair about the proposals for a "licence to teach" ("Cash carrot to enforce training", THES, September 11). Organisations such as the Institute for Learning and Teaching and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals have made the mistake of placing the onus on their own staff to jump through another hoop. Rather, it is the responsibility of such organisations to provide the support staff need to do their work.

The ILT is on the wrong track: it is concerning itself with the bureaucratic exercise of ensuring academic staff have a licence to teach. If it does not wish to be derailed by apathy from the majority, then it needs to focus on the provision of high-quality staff development encompassing all academic practices.

Perhaps it has been because of political pressure to "do something about teaching in higher education" that the ILT has gone down the wrong track. The ILT planning group made two major errors. First, it failed to tie accreditation of higher education teaching to rewards. Academic staff will believe that the status of teaching has been raised when they see colleagues financially rewarded and promoted.

Second, it has focused on the practice of teaching at the expense of the other academic practices. Academic staff have many responsibilities, and they want a high-quality system of continuous professional development to support all of them.

The ultimate responsibility for teaching rests with the academic staff who work with the students. They view accreditation with trepidation but recognise that it offers one means by which to improve their development and the learning experience of their students. It will be a worthwhile venture if it embraces all academic practices and offers high-quality development. But at present it misses the mark through its over-emphasis on teaching and, alarmingly, by ignoring staff views. It may become yet just another level of bureaucracy that impedes rather than progresses the quality of academic life.

Antony Luby

Honorary research fellow University of Paisley

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