Academy seeks to win converts

July 11, 2003

The launch of a national teaching quality academy rests on a vote by members of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education to dissolve their organisation this autumn.

If agreed, the institute's 15,500 members would re-register with the academy in what supporters describe as "a mass conversion".

The move would spell the end for member ownership of the national body, which controls professional standards in teaching, after only four years.

Vice-chancellors and principals would be the legal owners of the academy, which would be a company limited by guarantee and with charity status.

Incorporation would be expected in August or September.

The ILTHE council recommended a "yes" vote in the ballot. A straw poll of delegates to ILTHE's conference at Warwick University last week found 85 per cent in favour of joining.

Leslie Wagner, interim chair of the academy and retiring vice-chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University, told delegates that the academy was an opportunity that members "must grab with both hands".

He wanted to allay fears that the academy would be dominated by Universities UK and the Standing Conference of Principals.

"Teaching and learning is a core activity of higher education. Many academics take it seriously. They want to make it and the student experience effective, but the national policy focus is recent and has been fragmented. The academy is moving things to a different level," he said.

Nigel Palastranga, chair of ILTHE finance committee, said that the academy would be effective only if it won the support of practitioners.

Mandy Telford, president of the National Union of Students, wanted to see greater student involvement in the academy.

The academy took the name the Higher Education Academy in a effort to show that its brief extends beyond just teaching. It said its aims were to bring together all staff supporting students and ensure their professional development.

This would mean splitting the staff-support functions of the Higher Education Staff Development Agency between the academy and the new Leadership Foundation. The Learning and Teaching Support Network is the other agency involved.

The academy board would comprise representatives of UUK, Scop, the funding councils, practitioners and other related bodies. A council would run the professional accreditation side.

Income would come from national funding councils, institutional subscriptions and individual members' registration fees.

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