Business leaders are calling for university lecturers to be given training in supervision through the national vocational qualification system.
Dominic Cadbury, chairman of the Confederation of British Industry's education and training committee, told a conference of lecturers that while teaching is crucial to the skills revolution, it is not given sufficient priority. He said: "There are no formal arrangements for the training of teachers in universities and colleges. In terms of funding and status, research is rated more highly than teaching."
Mr Cadbury pointed out that since it is Government policy to cover all sectors of employment with NVQs, it is anomalous that education should remain excluded, especially since many lecturers are now delivering NVQ courses. About 50 universities are involved in NVQs. He recommended the development of a higher education lead body responsible for drawing up standards and possibly working with similar bodies for schools and further education colleges under an umbrella of an "occupational standards council for education".
John Stoddart, chairman of the Higher Education Quality Council and Sheffield Hallam's vice chancellor, supported the idea of NVQs for lecturers, arguing that "there are clear benefits for higher education in applying a national framework to academic staff development and promoting a culture of greater professionalism". He agreed that "the quality of the academic staff affects the quality of the students' learning experience". He also thought that NVQs would promote the transfer of staff from academia to industry.
Professor Stoddart backed the proposal for a lead body for higher education. But John Tomlinson, director of the Warwick University's Institute of Education, said that while a lead body would be an improvement on the current situation of imminent control, he preferred the idea of a general teaching council. He said: "The best solution would be a general teaching council with a training and qualifications committee so constituted that it met the requirements of a lead body and had power directly to make proposals to the bodies providing certification."