New learning and teaching body set to reward excellence

November 21, 1997

Will education control be local, regional or national? THES reporters monitor moving battlelines

EXCELLENCE in teaching is to be rewarded through a new strategy announced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England this week.

The council is setting up a learning and teaching committee to consider how best to direct funding to support these activities.

It will liaise with the Institute for the Development of Teaching and Learning proposed by the Dearing committee. Membership of the new committee will represent universities, colleges, industry and the Quality Assurance Agency.

There will also be observers from other funding councils, the Department for Education and Employment and teaching student unions.

Three-quarters of the council's money goes towards teaching and learning, but until now there has been no coherent overall approach.

The new committee will consider introducing a premium for teaching quality within the existing teaching funding method, spread examples of good practice and promote computer-based teaching.

Bahram Bekhradnia, HEFCE director of policy, said: "A large number of colleagues in higher education believe that teaching is not valued or rewarded as much as research. We recognise that change is needed, and needed relatively quickly, to redress this imbalance."

The council still has to decide how to measure excellence in teaching. It could use the outcomes of existing and future quality assessments, giving extra brownie points to institutions with good teaching strategies themselves.

Universities would also be expected to consider ways of rewarding good teaching staff.

But education lawyers warn that the funding council may expose itself to legal action from institutions which dispute their assessments and the money which follows.

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