A new qualification aiming to create a uniform standard of teaching in higher education could soon be held by every university lecturer if radical proposals are accepted by the Dearing inquiry.
According to experts at the Institute of Education, there is now widespread agreement that teaching standards need to be raised through a national accreditation system that would give lecturers a status similar to people in professions such as law or medicine.
Following a seminar at the institute, professor of higher education Gareth Williams said: "Now that there is more formal recognition of teaching quality we need a much more ambitious system of accreditation for university teachers. Not just a teaching certificate but something more akin to the recognition gained by, for example, membership of the Royal College of Surgeons."
Peter Mortimore, director of the Institute of Education, agreed: "There is very strong support for this notion in universities since it is recognised now that pedagogical skills may be lacking, even among those who are brilliant within their subject."
It was now the right time to find a way forward, he added, so that a compulsory qualification could be devised as a priority.
While lecturers' unions support the idea of accreditation, concerns were raised that existing members of staff should not be penalised by the introduction of new standards. The older universities have been slow to take up existing schemes such as an award run by staff development organisation SEDA.
The Association of University Teachers said that it supported the idea of accreditation but added that any system needed to be voluntary for a trial period at least.
And lecturers' union Natfhe, which represents the new universities, said it would be very anxious about any compulsory qualification.
New money for teaching, page 6