Claims of 'appalling' sexism rock ILT

February 11, 2000

Accusations of sexism have hit the Institute for Learning and Teaching, set up to spread good practice throughout higher education.

The Association of University Teachers said the ILT was promoting "appalling stereotypes" of female academics. Jane McAdoo, executive member for equal opportunities, criticised the institute's use of "absolutely inappropriate" training literature.

Union members had complained about a number of poor equal opportunities practices at the ILT, she said.

The ILT was launched last summer after Lord Dearing's report recommended it be set up to improve and professionalise teaching and spread best practice.

The training literature at the centre of the storm includes two sample application forms advising how to get membership of the ILT. A fictional male lecturer's application is given as an example of the successful applicant, while a female lecturer's application is deemed unsuccessful.

The woman is described by one referee as "a warm... and slightly ephemeral person" with a "slightly eccentric but engaging personality". There are times "that she is so carried away by ideas that she has omitted to turn up (to supervisions)".

The man is a "capable and innovative teacher", contributing substantially to a top teaching quality assessment and a grade four in the research assessment exercise.

A woman professor, who has complained to the AUT and the ILT but who did not want to be named, said: "Why gender had to be a feature I do not know. There are so few of us women in higher education and we have to work so hard to stay even, this is just awful."

It is understood that this is not the first time the ILT has fallen foul of equality watchdogs and the AUT has had informal talks with the institute on the subject.

The published photograph of the ILT's first successful members, for example, was dominated by white, middle-aged men.

Ms McAdoo said: "The ILT has always listened to what the AUT and others have had to say about equal opportunities and have amended practices accordingly."

Sally Brown, ILT director of membership services, said that although it was impossible to withdraw the material, all further training materials had been altered to remove gender references.

"We have taken immediate action. We are very, very careful about equal opportunities issues and most of our staff are female. As a woman professor I do know how hard it is in the sector."

Brains behind Britain, p18

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