Institute of Learning gears up

March 12, 1999

The Institute of Learning and Teaching has appointed Paul Clark, director of learning and teaching at the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, as its first chief executive. Dr Clark was formerly director of the quality assessment division of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The institute, which will begin operations next month to establish a credible national standard for teachers in higher education, is also set to announce its first significant coup. The HEFCE has decided to hand over the running of its new subject centres to the institute. The council will soon invite tenders for 24 centres aiming to pool teaching expertise in each discipline as a key plank of its new learning and teaching strategy.

Consultations over the institute's membership criteria, however, have revealed deep divisions within the sector. The proposed membership framework requires lecturers to demonstrate 24 "teaching outcomes". New and existing teachers in universities and colleges will be urged to gain membership, and career progression and funding may ultimately depend on it. Critics argue that the requirements are too complicated.

"This is not what we expected, and people are terribly daunted by the idea of providing 24 different bits of evidence," said Liz Beatty, chair of the Staff Educational Development Association. "This could put off even very experienced lecturers because it resembles an NVQ model that was rejected by the sector a number of years ago."

Jessica Claridge, head of learning development at Exeter University and chair of Seda's accreditation committee, said the scheme was the lowest common denominator, amounting to little more than a tick box. "Scholarship has been lost sight of, and a lot of earlier work on this has been ignored," she said.

Roger King, chair of the institute's planning group, denied there had been any change of direction. "There is a balance to be struck between proper rigour and a reasonably light touch," he said.

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