EXCELLENT teaching in universities is to receive its reward under a key funding council strategy discussed this week.
Talks will take place over the next few months on how to allocate money to promote the best in higher education teaching and research, while keeping bureaucracy to a minimum.
The proposals, discussed at the Higher Education Funding Council for England's annual conference, are broad-ranging and still at an early stage.
Any policy finally agreed is expected to evolve gradually, drawing on new methods of assessing quality as they develop.
Methods suggested so far include: * A teaching quality premium included in core teaching funds, which would reward institutions proved to be good at teaching.
* Linking cash to institutions' learning and teaching strategies. More and more institutions have developed such strategies since Dearing.
* Allowing institutions that can prove excellent teaching to take on more students. HEFCE has already funded places for about 8,500 extra students this year in institutions with some proof of high-quality teaching. In future, colleges and universities that can prove quality could be offered a choice of extra grant or extra student numbers.
* Money could be allocated according to the proportion of accredited teaching staff as a way of encouraging institutions to develop accreditation schemes and boosting the proposed Institute for Learning and Teaching.
* Extending the existing Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning. This already allocates Pounds 14 million to 63 projects showing high-quality teaching. The funding council could give extra money to successful projects funded either by this scheme or by the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme.
* Using wider ranging evidence of quality, including audits, to measure excellence in different aspects of teaching and learning.
The funding council favours basing judgements of teaching quality on the existing teaching quality assessment system.
But this has recently changed and is due to change again in 2001, which means any system of rewarding quality will need to develop over time.
Initial response from vice-chancellors showed broad support for the principles behind the scheme but disagreement over suggested methods for implementing it.
Some were cautious about relying on accreditation schemes that had not yet been developed.
Others questioned the value of rewarding institutions which already performed well rather than helping those which were dragging behind.
There were also reservations about basing teaching assessments on criteria that were too broad and a fear of further audits.