Universities are training a declining proportion of the UK's schoolteachers, a new analysis reveals, as they lose ground to on-the-job training schemes.
Figures in a new report from the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University show that school and employment-based teacher training schemes now account for more than a quarter of all secondary initial teacher training student intakes, compared with 15 per cent four years ago and just 2 per cent nearly a decade ago.
John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys and a former Government adviser on teacher supply, warned that with figures showing a clear oversupply of trained teachers, universities could be facing alarming cuts. "At some point, some vice-chancellors are going to decide that if the numbers are going down, then it is not going to be worth continuing to run teaching training courses," he said.
"It is time for the Government to come clean on what its plans are for the future. There should be a five-year plan, so that everyone knows where they stand."
One possible explanation for the growing popularity of the workplace schemes known as Scitts (school-centred initial teacher training schemes) and Ebitts (employment-based initial teaching training providers) - is that their graduates are more likely to get a teaching job once they have completed their course.
In an analysis by Alan Smithers, director of the centre and author of the report, Scitts scored better than universities on the number of graduates in teaching jobs six months after completion of their training.
Professor Smithers said: "The employment-based route is successful in two ways. It allows schools to recruit trainees when they actually need them, so there is a more direct link between recruitment and need; and this therefore improves the employment prospects for the trainees."
University teacher training heads countered that Ofsted inspections have consistently judged the quality of higher education courses to be better than that of work-based programmes.
James Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, argued that for this reason, planned cuts in teacher training should not fall on universities.
He said: "We do not object to the alternative routes, but when teacher training numbers are being cut, there is not really a case to continue awarding places to the employment-based route."
Professor Smithers's analysis, however, suggests that the best Scitts are at least as good as the best universities when combining data on Ofsted inspections, student entry qualifications and graduate employment rates.
His report also shows that Cambridge University has knocked Oxford University off the top of his teacher training rankings, based on quality ratings, student intake and employment rates. Manchester has moved up to third place, while the biggest climber in the table since last year is King's College London, rising from 49th place to 17th.