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End of era for lecturer training

A little noticed but historic decision has been taken by Strathclyde University to end a 30-year association with college lecturer training. The university will no longer provide the teaching qualification in further education (TQFE) because of a steady decline in numbers.

Strathclyde dissolved its Scottish School of Further Education (SSFE) last August and staff have been whittled down as numbers fell. The four or five who remain will be redeployed.

"There is absolutely no question of compulsory redundancies," Iain Smith, dean of the education faculty, told The TES Scotland.

Mr Smith commented: "The decision was made with some regret, given the long history of involvement in the teaching of FE lecturers. However, for academic and resource reasons, the courses were no longer viable."

FE lecturers will be able to complete their course, but there will be no new entrants from 2005-06.

The number of lecturers sent to Strathclyde to gain the TQFE this year is 10, compared with around 200 a year a decade ago. The first signs of the writing on the wall came in the 1990s when the monopoly of the SSFE in training lecturers was broken and it was opened up to other institutions.

Stirling, Aberdeen and Dundee universities became significant players.

At the same time, more and more colleges started training their own staff in-house, using the system of professional development awards. The result is that the number of full-time FE lecturers in Scotland with the TQFE is now 86 per cent "The context in which TQFE courses operate has changed dramatically with the introduction of the professional development awards in FE colleges," Mr Smith said. "The market is also more competitive and the faculty feels that closing the courses will allow for student numbers to be allocated to courses that can expand."

But some lecturers feel Strathclyde might also have been the architect of its own demise in this area, by taking too rigid an approach. Its course had no distance learning element and provided no credit for prior learning.

Mr Smith said the education faculty would now concentrate on new markets, significantly in the field of paraprofessionals associated with teaching and particularly in the early years.

This should involve a continuing relationship with colleges. For example, Higher National courses for early years, childcare staff and classroom assistants are being offered in colleges and in future may be upgraded to a teaching degree at Strathclyde. "We see that as a major area for development," Mr Smith said.

Meanwhile, the SSFE will remain in its physical form at least. Part of the Jordanhill site has been sold for development and the FE school will be converted to flats by Cala Homes - some of whose workers may well have FE qualifications delivered by college lecturers trained in the building they will shortly start renovating.

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