Union demands can only damage our institute

December 15, 2000

Paul Clark regrets calls for changes to a body that aims to support and give status to teaching professionals.

The Institute for Learning and Teaching is disappointed by the decisions of the recent winter council of the Association of University Teachers.

The AUT has been heavily involved in all stages of the development and operation of the ILT, with a member of its national executive being vice-chair of the ILT planning group and the present transitional council. This makes its recent demands for radical change of ILT policies and procedures all the more surprising.

The AUT has insisted that the ILT recruit over 50 per cent of the higher education learning and teaching profession by June 2002. This represents at least 60,000 members or more than 2,200 members per month, every month.

No professional body operating on a voluntary entry basis has ever come near such a recruitment rate. It would also require major increases in resources. Simultaneously, however, the ILT is being pressed by the AUT to introduce a graduated fee structure that would reduce its income.

The reported intentions of the AUT to found some alternative accrediting agency modelled on the General Teaching Council or the General Medical Council are dangerous for the teaching and learning support community. Registration for the GMC is mandatory and the GTC is also moving in that direction. Members who are struck off cannot continue to practise. This will not attract the higher education teaching profession and the ILT has avoided them in its development.

The ILT is a professional body with a clear mission: recognising and supporting professionalism in higher education teaching and creating, informing and supporting that community of professionals. It is built on the basis of members' control and has already elected five members to its council. It has a growing membership whose financial support is progressively assuring its independence. In 18 months it has developed well-received processes of individual membership and institutional accreditation.

The professional status that it accords its members is increasingly being recognised by institutions. It has established a range of services (journal, workshops, conferences) in a remarkably short time and is moving into electronic delivery of learning and teaching resources.

But, above all, it provides the self-regulating forum in which all members of the learning and teaching community, not just the members of one union, can debate and determine the professional standards they wish to see sustained in higher education. It is regrettable that the AUT is not supporting its members in participating in this ground-breaking venture.

Paul Clark is chief executive of the ILT.

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