Professional duties

June 5, 1998

TEACHERS from the '94 group of universities have clearly not appreciated the space for academic autonomy the proposed Institute of Learning and Teaching will give institutions and individuals (THES, May 22).

This space is essential when institutions are fighting to preserve their distinctive identity in a diverse sector and at the same time ensure they, their students and their teachers are able to respond to a rapidly changing environment.

The ILT proposals are not based, as Marie Stinson of Leeds University claims, on any assumptions about "declining practice" but rather on the fact there is a lot of "inappropriate practice" that is not keeping pace with societal needs and demands.

It is only by taking charge of our own continuing development in learning and teaching (which the proposed national framework allows for), that university teaching can take its rightful and long overdue place alongside other professions. Given the academic energy and expertise that could be released and engaged, we might also learn to manage our time and rising student numbers better. Who knows, we might even redefine "academic autonomy" in the process.

Heather Matlock Project manager, academic staffing Thames Valley University

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