Scottish education minister Brian Wilson announced this week that he is giving the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council the task of setting future intakes for teacher education courses.
The move is in response to Sir Stewart Sutherland's study of Scottish teacher education and training, published as part of the Dearing report.
The Sutherland report recommended that SHEFC could have a role in the potential reallocation of intakes. At present, the Scottish Office sets intake levels following consultations. The report urged the Scottish Office to consult SHEFC over increasing intakes.
Mr Wilson said: "From now on, the government will focus on our strategic objectives for teacher education and supply, including minimum requirements for newly trained teachers. SHEFC will in future set intake levels to teacher education institutes as it considers appropriate, while ensuring that the government's strategic objectives are met."
The new system will come fully on stream in 1999-2000, but although the Scottish Office will not recommend specific intakes for the next academic year, Mr Wilson said it would ask SHEFC to "take note" of its consultations on balancing supply and demand.
* Sir Stewart has distanced himself from legislation that would give HM Inspectors new powers to inspect courses in Scottish universities.
The government is proposing in the Teaching and Higher Education Bill to make inspectors' powers north of the border the same as in England. Mr Wilson has presented the move as inspired by the Sutherland report.
But Sir Stewart has stressed that he was not consulted, and has warned of the danger of potential "boundary disputes". Scottish teacher education courses come under the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's quality assessment system, and mergers make it likely that they will all shortly be taught in universities.
"It's very important that if the inspectors are going into universities with this specific task, the areas in which they operate are clearly and well defined, as with visiting professional bodies in areas such as engineering and veterinary studies," Sir Stewart said.
He predicted that teacher education would become more strongly integrated into the general curriculum, with students taking professional teacher education courses while studying other disciplines.
But universities would not take kindly to HMIs seeing these other disciplines as "up for inspection" as part of the student's education. "I'm sure this could be dealt with, but it's better dealt with beforehand rather than when the first boundary dispute arises," he said.