Retrograde thinking

August 7, 1998

THE Higher Education Funding Council's intention to request tenders for Pounds 30 million to set up centres of teaching expertise in specific subject areas (THES, July 31) is a retrograde step. Cliff Allan, policy principal at HEFCE is quoted as saying "there is a lot of evidence to suggest that many academics look first to their own discipline for good practice in teaching and learning". This is true, as is the fact that many academics seldom look outside their subject discipline at all, let alone to consider general teaching and learning issues. There is no reason why HEFCE should perpetuate this parochial practice.

The Pounds 30 million comes hard on the heels of the Pounds 15 million which the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning allocated to the development of teaching and learning in the subject disciplines covered by the quality assessments during 1995-97. These allocations to subject disciplines must be to the detriment of generic teaching and learning and this at a time when students are increasingly using Institute of Learning and Teaching resources outside the classroom.

The HEFCE money will fund initiatives in parallel with work done by ILT: do we need both of them doing similar things? Research and development for generic teaching and learning is now likely to be spread over every subject area, making it even more difficult to identify and draw upon current good practice.

Now that teacher accreditation by ILT is not to be made compulsory, the academics can return to rest within their own subject disciplines. This is not progress.

Richard Downing West Hyde, Herts

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