The Association of University Teachers may be ready to drop plans to set up its own professional accreditation scheme to rival the Institute for Learning and Teaching.
On the eve of the ILT's over-subscribed annual conference this week, AUT assistant general secretary Paul Cottrell said that while its plan was still alive, the ILT had a last chance to prove its critics wrong before the AUT began investing serious time and money in a rival project.
"We are not ruling out the possibility that we might get to a stage where we can encourage our members to join the ILT," he said.
The association had to be certain its members supported professional accreditation, he said.
There are signs that AUT members would dislike an AUT-run scheme as much as they dislike the ILT. At May's annual AUT council, a delegate called for a discussion document to "assess the advantages and disadvantages for all distinct groups of members" and a full ballot of members before any scheme was approved.
Mr Cottrell offered an olive branch to the ILT. The AUT's main concern was that the ILT had failed to market itself properly and had presented additional layers of bureaucracy and cost. But there was time for the ILT to sell itself to AUT members and the signs were encouraging, he said.
"Sir Kenneth Calman (vice-chancellor of Durham University) coming in as the new chair has added a lot of weight," he said. "He seems determined to add a bit of dynamism to the thing. We might come to an accommodation with the ILT. There is still a lot of space for the ILT to... demonstrate that it has got something to offer."
The AUT executive will report the results of its ongoing consultation to its winter council in December. A series of local conferences and a campaign launch will begin in March, with detailed proposals put to a spring 2002 conference. A detailed scheme will be put to members for approval in May 2002.
The ILT said it was encouraged by a change of tone from the AUT. "We hope to work with the AUT and talk to AUT members at branch level in the hope we can move forward together," said a spokeswoman. "The concerns the AUT have about accreditation are concerns we share and it does not make sense to have two schemes."
She said there were 5,400 members, with a further 6,000 applicants. The conference in York is expecting more than 350 delegates. "The mood is changing," she said.