Senior staff at three London institutions have been described as "disgraceful and unprofessional" after abandoning their partners in a bid to provide a new professional qualification for teachers.
A group of deans and professors of education, who were part of a consortium of teacher training providers known as the London Providers Group, put in a bid to the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) last year for the right to provide a new masters in teaching and learning.
A second bid by the group was being prepared, but on 1 April the three lead institutions withdrew after deciding to go it alone.
In an email, Anne Slater, Dylan Wiliam and Chris Winch, of UEL, the IoE and King's, respectively, said: "The formal feedback that we received from the TDA on the reasons for our failure ... focused mainly on our failure to involve schools sufficiently in the partnership.
"There is also the specific requirement in the revised request for proposals for a flat management structure."
The senior management of the IoE had decided not to participate in a joint bid involving the whole group, the email continued, and "following that decision, the three lead partners ... have decided to work together on preparing a bid for the second round of tendering".
That round closed on 1 May.
Correspondence leaked to Times Higher Education shows that the decision provoked a strong reaction from the trio's former partners.
Jeanne Keay, chair of the London Providers Group and dean of the School of Education at Roehampton University, said she was "extremely disappointed".
She said: "You have made a decision so late in the process and, having drawn on the expertise of colleagues ... you leave us with very little time to develop another bid. This way of working is certainly not collegiate."
Sally Inman, professor of education at London South Bank University, described the rationale for bidding alone as "weak ... by anyone's standards".
Ian Terrell, director of professional development at Middlesex University, said the behaviour was "disgraceful, unprofessional and morally bankrupt".
Geraldine Davies, head of the School of Education at St Mary's University College, said she was "shocked" by the "cynicism". "We have seen that collaboration and partnership does not mean the same thing to everyone," she said.
The future of the London Providers Group, which was formed in 1991, is now in doubt.
Professor Wiliam told Times Higher Education: "The feedback from the TDA made it clear that one of the main reasons for the failure of the first bid was the lack of a clear framework for quality assurance across the consortium as a whole."
He said that the IoE had always been clear that it would not decide whether to join a second bid with the London Providers Group until it had seen the TDA's revised specification, which was issued on 17 March. The decision not to proceed with the group bid was communicated to the group the day after the decision was made, he said, and four weeks before the deadline for bids.