Future in doubt for hard-up ILT

June 28, 2002

The future role of the cash-strapped Institute for Learning and Teaching is in doubt.

A committee chaired by Sir Ron Cooke, vice-chancellor of York University, wants to create a logical division of labour between the teaching quality agencies, which account for some £40 million of public money a year.

Sir Ron is looking for gaps and duplication in provision between the ILT, the Learning and Teaching Support Network, the Higher Education Staff Development Agency and the Quality Assurance Agency.

The committee, whose members represent the bodies involved, is due to report on July 31. The Association of University Teachers and lecturers'

union Natfhe will be consulted.

But the views of 15 focus groups of teaching and learning-support staff, convened by George Gordon, director of Strathclyde University's Centre of Academic Practice, were reported to the committee yesterday.

Their suggestions included the establishment of a single agency linking all quality enhancement work and a joint agencies' website clarifying roles for lecturers.

The ILT's financial difficulties must be a consideration. The 11,000-member agency, whose annual conference began on Wednesday at Heriot-Watt University, recently drew on a £500,000 loan from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

David Young, policy adviser for Universities UK, which commissioned the review with the Standing Conference of Principals and Hefce, said: "UUK thinks quality enhancement is where we should be putting time and effort. We are seeking to ensure we get optimal value."

All four agencies have UK-wide roles. Some have service agreements or contracts with funding bodies. UUK says that Sir Ron's committee wants agreement on "at least common core arrangements with each of the funding bodies".

While the LTSN is funded from Hefce's teaching-quality enhancement fund, and Hesda by institutional subscription, the ILT is expected to become self-supporting through individual membership and accreditation of institutional lecturer training programmes.

As some universities pay staff's ILT application fees, income is in effect still coming from the public purse. The committee is looking at the QAA's enhancement role - developing the code of practice, subject benchmarks, programme specifications and national framework for higher education qualifications - and not its assurance work.

The ILT, the LTSN and Hesda have issued a joint statement welcoming the review.

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