Less than one month after the Institute for Learning and Teaching started to accept applications for membership, demand is far outstripping even the most optimistic forecasts.
About 200 people per day are downloading application forms from the institute's website and about 3,000 application packs have been requested by post. Sally Brown, director of membership services, said the aim was to make a noticeable impact on students' learning experiences as soon as possible.
"Requests, which have been coming in from both old and new universities, have exceeded our expectations by a large margin but we are coping," she said.
The institute is the new professional body for university lecturers and learning support staff. It was launched in June following a recommendation in the Dearing report and aims to raise standards of teaching in universities through a professional accreditation programme.
Requests have come both from institutions and from individual lecturers. So far 64 institutions have expressed an interest in gaining accreditation for their own professional development programmes for lecturers. This is particularly welcome since it avoids any unnecessary repetition of tried and tested methods, said Professor Brown.
Institute staff expect to start scrutinising applications and making visits to institutions next month.
In addition, the institute is hoping to persuade the majority of lecturers in higher education to take up personal membership over the next two years. The aim is to set new national standards in teaching.
A panel of 32 accreditors, who will review all applications, are being trained. They have been recruited from across higher education from a range of subjects and the ILT stressed they all have expertise in external review and professional body accreditation.
Professor Brown said vice-chancellors up and down the country had been very supportive of the institute and were encouraging their staff to get their applications in early.
"One vice-chancellor said his target was to get 10 per cent of his staff in membership during the first year although he could see no reason why all experienced lecturers should not be in," Professor Brown added.
For the next two years experienced lecturers will be able to apply for a fast-track membership of the ILT by writing a short "reflective analysis" of teaching experience supported by two referees. In September 2001 this initial entry route will be closed and applicants will need to put together a portfolio of evidence for membership.
Professor Brown said membership benefits include recognition of teaching professionalism and possibly improved promotion prospects as well as keeping up to date with teaching innovations.
"The ILT can make a genuine impact on teaching in universities by enhancing its status," she said.
"Ultimately, students have the right to expect the best possible from their teachers and it is our job to build on best practice which undoubtedly already exists in the system."
Information at www.ilt.ac.uk