Incentives for quality

May 1, 1998

THE fact that the Higher Education Funding Council for England may have decided to reward teaching excellence on the basis of Quality Assurance Agency assessments (THES, leader, April 17) does not change the validity of James Wright's article, which is juxtaposed. Not only is it both wrong and unnecessary to reward teaching excellence in this way, but the end result of all the work associated with chasing such excellence is likely to depress the latter.

On the other hand, what is needed and what Professor Wright does not mention, is an incentive for individual teachers to engage in appropriate curriculum developments, teaching innovations etc. Such an incentive might lead a proportion of academic staff to exhibit their creativity through teaching developments and not through research. This requires a research council-like activity for creative teaching developments, and it should be one of the tasks of the Institute for Learning and Teaching to devise such a scheme and then to finance it.

I am sure that ideas as to how to construct such a scheme would come readily from the Society for Research into Higher Education and the Staff and Educational Development Association. Perhaps they should be asked to form a joint working party with some guarantee that their views will be listened to.

Lewis Elton

Professor of higher education University College London

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