Travelling teaching elite is proposed

May 23, 1997

The creation of a travelling group of expert lecturers, who could achieve professor status on their teaching rather than perform research, to deliver lectures around the country, was proposed this week by Britain's pre-eminent scientific academy, the Royal Society.

Their work would come under a new Teaching and Learning Council established to drive innovative approaches to university teaching, says the society in its submission to the Dearing inquiry into higher education.

According to Alistair MacFarlane, chairman of the society's Dearing working group, such a council could be set up at a cost of Pounds 50 million and given the same status as a research council.

"We must change attitudes to teaching," said Professor MacFarlane. "We must convince those in higher education that a shift in their emphasis to teaching will be rewarding and fulfilling."

Professor MacFarlane said that the sharing of lecturers and resources would prevent duplication of courses in the same region and so produce savings.

In its submission, the Royal Society also stresses the need to maintain the current system of dual funding, which "provides stability, continuity and capacity to plan ahead". Sir John Horlock, treasurer of the society, believes the transfer of funds from the funding to research councils "has now gone far enough".

The society suggests that the research councils support fewer but "more completely costed and funded" projects. It also calls for a fuller investigation of the impact of the research assessment exercise. Though it favours research assessment and selectivity, it suggests that the sharp differences in funding between differently-rated departments may affect staff mobility, blue-sky work and collaboration between groups.

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