Cash carrot to enforce training

September 11, 1998

Lecturers may be pressurised by their employers into joining the new Institute for Learning and Teaching.

Next week vice-chancellors will consider a draft prospectus that says that the proportion of academic staff with institute membership may become an important element of funding formulas.

The prospectus, written by University of Lincolnshire and Humberside vice-chancellor Roger King, says: "Given that the government has asked the funding councils to consider how to link high-quality teaching with funding, it is possible that they could consider indicators related to the percentage of staff members of the ILT."

The Dearing inquiry into higher education proposed the institute as a learned society charged with improving the quality of teaching in higher education.

Professor King's report, to be discussed at the annual meeting of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, follows months of consultations with the higher education sector, which overturned plans to make a licence to practise compulsory for all lecturers.

Professor King seems to have overcome the final financial hurdle to getting the ILT established. It is hoped that start-up costs of Pounds 1.5 million will be secured from the Higher Education Funding Council for England at its council meeting next Friday and that business will start later this year.

Professor King, chair of the ILT planning group, stressed that the institute would not become an intrusive central agency.

"We are very sensitive to the burdens on staff and are anxious that our activities should support institutions rather than become an additional burden," he said.

The ILT's key functions will be to accredit courses and other "pathways" in learning and teaching provided by institutions, and to collect and analyse research on teaching and learning. It will also: * lead developments in higher education teaching and learning * kitemark good computer-based learning materials * provide a focus for teaching assistance to disbabled students * coordinate national developments of computer-based learning materials.

Addressing the issue of what will motivate individuals to join the institute - at a cost of Pounds 50 per year - the prospectus says academics will benefit from enhanced status and "mobile" recognition of teaching competence.

It is assumed that in the best case scenario, 50 per cent of new probationary lecturers will join in the first year and in the worst case 25 per cent or less will join. Existing staff are likely to prove "more challenging". The best-case scenario is assumed to be 25 per cent joining in the first year, the worst-case 5 per cent.

"For many, the ILT may appear irrelevant or even an unwanted distraction," says the prospectus. "For those with an interest in the ILT, the interest could quickly turn to hostility if such staff were required to prove they could do their jobs by having to take a course in teaching methods."

The report recommends encouraging established lecturers to provide evidence of their skills rather than gain a qualification in support of their applications.

The search for a chief executive will now begin. The head office is likely to be in the Midlands.

Preview of CVCP annual meeting, page 7

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