SALARIES for postgraduate trainee-teachers may signal the decline and closure of teaching degree courses - and ministers will lose no sleep over that fact.
Teacher-training chiefs admit that paying pound;6,000 a year to students doing postgraduate certificate in education courses will accelerate the shift away from Bachelor of Education degrees.
They expect a new species of non-teaching degree to emerge, incorporating early classroom practice, leading to a PGCE that would attract the salary.
Academics and students joined together this week to warn that the decision to exclude undergraduates from the training salary scheme would threaten four year BEd courses. They urged Education Secretary David Blunkett to be open about his intentions.
The Teacher Training Agency sought to reassure students that there was still a future for the BEd. Chief executive Ralph Tabberer said: "Education is a proper subject for study."
But ministers increasingly favour the postgraduate route as more practical and lighter on academic theory. They also value the specialisms that trainees bring from their first degrees. Two-thirds of new teachers already take the PGCE route into schools.
"People will be able to make their own choice, but if more decide to take a degree an then a PGCE, we don't have a problem with that," a Government source said.
The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers is seeking talks with the TTA to discuss its concerns.
Its chairman, Mike Newby, said: "The BEd has proved its worth over many years. It's a particularly good way of training primary teachers. This Government would be ill-advised to do anything to damage it."
The TES understands that the Treasury wanted to pay salaries only to students on secondary PGCE courses - where the recruitment crisis is most severe. Mr Blunkett fought "to the wire" to extend that to the primary PGCE but needed Tony Blair's backing to win a pilot year.
In that climate, the BEd - where four-fifths of students are aiming for primary posts - had no chance of funding.
BEd students complain that they are being punished for their dedication in choosing a four-year course.
Jayne Pascoe, a second-year student at the University of North London, said colleagues on her course were considering switching to other degrees, then taking a PGCE, in order to claim their pound;6,000.
"This will devalue our qualification," she said. "But there's a more immediate concern - if the intake for the BEd falls, will we lose teaching staff?"