The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers has criticised Ron Dearing's appointment of an "imbalanced" study group to advise him on teacher training. UCET fears it will only weaken the link between training and higher education.
The study group, headed by Stewart Sutherland, Edinburgh University vice chancellor, was set up two weeks ago by Sir Ron to examine the role of higher education in training teachers. Although Sir Stewart has said that "higher education plays a vital role", UCET believes the choice of advisers favours non-university providers.
Sir Stewart's two assessors are Lawrence Montagu and David Hargreaves, Cambridge University professor of education. Mr Montagu, headteacher of St Peter's High School in Gloucestershire, and leader of a school-based training consortium, will represent the fledgling school-centred (SCITT) training providers, perceived by UCET as a threat to traditional higher education provision. And Professor Hargreaves, UCET has argued, supports a reduction of the role of higher education in training provision.
"You could say we are very puzzled why these two particular people were chosen," said UCET secretary Mary Russell. "One represents only a tiny proportion of teacher training providers and has no links with higher education and the other is not a genuine representative of the higher education sector - he has some very distinct ideas about the role universities should play."
Tony Millns, spokesman for Sir Ron's committee of inquiry, said: "Sir Stewart was vice chancellor of London University, a major teacher education provider. With Sir Stewart combined with David Hargreaves, it seems there is more than adequate higher education representation for this review." The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals expressed "confidence" in Sir Stewart's integrity, but said it was aware of concerns over the choice of the two assessors.
In its submission to the Dearing inquiry, UCET has complained bitterly that "the thrust of policy has been to weaken the link to higher education".
"The nadir of such decoupling," UCET said, "followed from the establishment of the Teacher Training Agency, which has demonstrated a hostility to the necessary involvement of higher education through its emphasis on a wholly school-based approach."