Government plans to professionalise university teaching suffered a setback last week with a threat from higher education's largest lecturers' union to boycott the Institute of Learning and Teaching.
The Association of University Teachers has warned that without a commitment to smooth lecturers' access to the ILT, it will not recommend that its members apply for accreditation by the institute. More vociferous objections to the ILT at the AUT's annual council in Eastbourne last week were quashed, but a motion for a "pro-active campaign against the ILT in its present form" was carried.
The threat of a boycott was raised by the AUT's executive council, which has sought to cooperate with the ILT in the face of more stringent opposition from grassroots membership. The executive's motion said that while it expected the ILT to announce a "less onerous" group accreditation system in the autumn, if the announcement was not forthcoming, it would be unable to recommend that academic staff apply for membership.
The executive said that any group of staff responsible for a course that has been validated externally should be able to use that validation as the basis of their accreditation with the ILT "without further onerous demands".
A move by the women's committee to censure the executive for failing to lobby successfully for a better deal with the ILT was defeated, as was its call for a report to examine the possibility of scrapping individual membership of the ILT in favour of institution-based membership.
Other motions carried included:
The council reasserted its rejection of factor-based job evaluation, but it has instructed the executive to examine alternative methods of evaluating and grading staff as a means to promote equal pay and prevent discrimination
Ministers' plans for two-year foundation degrees were criticised. The council said that the use of the term "foundation degree" would be misleading and "may undermine the status of the UK first degree". They must be fully funded and academically rigorous
The AUT council will call on the government to drop current and future plans for tuition fees and to restore the grant. A national demonstration will be held in London against privatisation in the public sector
The council reaffirmed its opposition to top-up fees
The council noted "the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's grotesquely offensive and insulting attitude towards fully qualified professionals in effectively not allowing (contract research staff) to act as investigators in EPSRC grants".