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Institute must prove its worth

Compulsory membership of the Institute for Learning (page 1) amounts, in effect, to a licence to practise as a teacher in post-16 education, inviting comparison with the Law Society or the British Medical Association. The question is whether the IFL - which will enjoy the security of income which comes from compulsory membership - can offer value for money.

If some solicitors complain about their fees to the Law Society, what is a lecturer going to make of parting with a portion of their much more modest income in order to be part of an organisation which has been created to service the policy objectives of government?

While conscription could be seen as a gloomy prospect for the lecturer, there is cause for optimism. In order to keep its credibility in a heavily unionised profession, the IFL will be under far more pressure than other compulsory professional bodies to show its value to members.

First, it will have to establish itself as a brand which lecturers are going to be proud to be associated with. This will require speaking with a clear voice about what government should do to support the profession, not just what lecturers should do for their students.

It will also require introducing a range of high-quality services for its members which justify their financial contribution.

We suspect the issue of greatest sensitivity will be the IFL's disciplinary role - which will include the ability, effectively, to bar lecturers from the profession.

With the unions on the council of the IFL, it will be interesting to see how they represent members who claim to have been unjustly treated under its disciplinary procedures. Just how effectively will the unions be able to protect their members from the excesses of an organisation which they themselves are involved in running and which they helped to set up?

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