Agony aunt

May 26, 2000

Q. I read some negative comments about Institute for Learning and Teaching membership requirements in reports from the Association of University Teachers conference last week. Should I put my application on the back burner?

A. Jane McAdoo. Chair Association of University Teachers education and development committee: Joining the Institute for Learning and Teaching must be a personal decision. Certainly it is not one the Association of University Teachers can make for you. As a union, we are lukewarm about the prospect until certain matters are resolved and potential members are convinced of the benefits. The AUT also believes that staff in departments that have emerged successfully from the rigours of teaching quality assessment have already proved their ability. For them, entry to the ILT should be swift and easy.

That said, the union supports in principle the idea of such an institute. We believe it offers a way of restoring a proper balance between teaching and research and a forum for sharing ideas and discussing problems.

The sad truth is that we spend more time discussing the administrative details of our teaching than on what and how we teach. The rapid expansion of higher education has altered our profession. In today's mixed-ability seminar rooms and lecture theatres, we need all the support we can get. This should be the main function of the ILT. If, as seems inevitable, teaching is to be accredited, then better by far that it be in the hands of an independent body such as the ILT, run by and for its members.

We are prepared to fight vigorously for any AUT member who feels they are being coerced into joining. At the same time, we believe we should continue dialogue with the ILT in the hope that we can help shape it into something that will genuinely provide a service to our members.

For what it's worth, I have applied for membership of the ILT and found the fast-track entry route quick and painless.

A: Sally Brown. Director of membership services. Institute for Learning and Teaching: No, I do not think you should. The AUT executive has been supportive from the beginning, although there have been some reservations about issues that we have promptly addressed. Lecturers' union Natfhe has also demonstrated its commitment by sending leaflets to members encouraging them to join. Both unions are represented on our council and the Educational Institute of Scotland is consulted on key issues.

The ILT is the professional body for everyone involved in teaching and the support of learning in higher education. Responses to the consultation exercise carried out when we were set up showed that our aims and activities have wide support.

The number of people who have achieved membership or who are very close to doing so now exceeds 1,000, and we are receiving about 250 applications a month. Members include experienced academics (including those at senior level) and learning support staff.

Membership is also available to those who have completed one of the 39 ILT-accredited courses in higher education teaching in the past three years, and about 60 other courses are seeking ILT approval. The ILT's existence has prompted many more universities to put their own training programmes for staff in place.

Members' benefits include an international refereed journal, newsletter, access to our website and substantial discounts on ILT books, events and our annual conference to be held in York on June -29 this year.

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