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THERE is still no immediate prospect of further education lecturers having to be registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. But opportunities to take the teaching qualification have become more widely spread since the Scottish School of Further Education at the Jordanhill campus of Strathclyde University lost its training monopoly.

Stirling University has 100 students enrolled on the two-year course and Northern College has just been given the go-ahead to introduce the qualification. As Mike Osborne, professor of lifelong learning at Stirling, says: "There is a backlog of demand." Colleges are unable to release at any time as many staff as want to take the qualification.

The School of FE remains the largest provider with 218 students, including those based at outreach centres in Inverness, Fraserburgh and Dumfries. Ian Finlay, the school's head, says that while numbers have fallen slightly since the monopoly was broken in 1998 demand is still buoyant.

Roughly a third of the lecturer-students have less than two years' experience, another third between two and five years and the remainder more than five. They attend either one day a week or on an evening, which makes the course twice as long. Mr Finlay says: "We are investigating the possibility of pre service courses as well."

Stirling became interested in developing an FE course after the Anderson report in 1993 recommended extending provision beyond Jordanhill. Nothing happened until 1998 when the Scottish Office invited all providers of teaching qualifications to make proposals, and Stirling worked with neighbouring colleges to devise its programme.

With the first students having enrolled last autumn, there is relief that the funding delays have been sorted out. Because of problems over liaison with the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, the money to fund the course did not come through and the university had to bear the costs itself. Professor Osborne says: "Fortunately the university had a visit from Nicol Stephen, the Deputy Minister for Lifelong Learning, and we were able to raise the matter. It was then sorted out almost immediately."

Stirling's students come from 21 colleges, and in future training organisations are also in line to send some of their staff. Through distance learning there are participants from the Orkney and Shetland collegesand from Lews Castle in the Western Isles. Professor Osborne says: "We will be happy to have 100 students in each of the two years. We are not looking to establish any new monopoly."

Lecturers should, he says, be experienced before they tackle what he describes as a "demanding" qualification, which, being largely workplace oriented, seeks to use practice to illustrate theory. "My own tutorial group has in it staff from hairdressing, car mechanics, law and philosophy, and they bring their own experiences, which makes it very refreshing to work with them."

Stirling sees the TQ (FE) as a component in its range of courses, including its postgraduate certificate in management for tertiary education and an MEd in the management of education. The Scottish Further Education Unit has given support and encouragement in identifying and meeting the needs of continuing professional development.

Professor Osborne points out that when Stirling is developing such courses "there are an awful lot of audiences we have to satisfy". The teaching qualification has met the demands of the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and the GTC, and will be subject to the universities' quality assurance framework.

Northern College has just jumped through the necessary hoops and is working initially with a group of about 15 lecturers from Aberdeen College. Jim Wilson, vice-principal, says talks are going on with several other colleges including Dundee, Elmwood and Moray. One of the aims is to offer a course that fits the wide range of academic backgrounds of lecturers. In particular, Professor Wilson says that those without a degree can obtain credits on the road to a BA.

Are extended training opportunities across Scotland a forerunner to compulsory registration by lecturers? The Executive shows no sign of immediately committing itself, but there is interest in the emerging model south of the border where a licence to practise is being considered by the Department for Education and Employment. The competencies which would have to be demonstrated are ones devised as occupational standards in Scotland.

Matthew Maciver, depute registrar of the GTC, notes there are about 1,150 lecturers registered out of 5,000. He says that the English licence to practise would "not be far from the compulsory registration we want here".

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