Many universities may consider pulling out of the teacher training market because of new funding pressures in the system, it was claimed this week.
Cuts in funded places for primary teacher training, "unrealistic" targets for secondary, the threat of a new payment-by-results funding scheme, and fears that cash for continuing professional development of teachers will be handed over to schools, have placed a question mark over the future of initial teacher training in some higher education institutions.
The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers says intake targets for next year issued by the Teacher Training Agency represent an increase on this year's targets of 11 per cent for secondary teacher training and a decrease for primary of 5 per cent. These targets will leave many education departments in a no-win situation.
Mary Russell, secretary of UCET, explained: "If institutions say yes to the targets then they will lose out because they will be trying to run an expensive scheme on a level of funding which was already inadequate. If they say no then they run the danger of cutting back so far that courses may become unviable."
Cuts in primary teacher training places are not as severe as originally planned, but a funding cushion provided for some institutions offering just primary training to help them diversify will mean others facing bigger decreases.
Meanwhile the TTA's targets for secondary training, where some universities are having trouble placing students in schools for teaching practice, have been described by UCET as "unrealistic".
An analysis of the target intake figures by John Howson, senior lecturer in education at Oxford Brookes University, shows that many institutions are facing cuts in primary teacher training of more than 10 per cent.
The biggest losers are Chester College, down 15.7 per cent, and Middlesex University, with a 13.9 per cent cut. Others with significant losses include Lancaster University (losing 12.1 per cent), Liverpool University (down 12.2 per cent) and Sussex University (down 12 per cent). Despite planned increases in secondary teacher training, Lancaster, Oxford, Sheffield, Exeter, and Keele universities, as well as the University of Central England in Birmingham, are all down on this year.
Mr Howson said the new targets could put pressure on the smaller redbrick universities, which have little room to expand, to pull out of the market.
"If they cannot expand in primary and they have not got a lot of demand for in-service training they may well begin to ask themselves if it is worth it," he said.