Delays in funding and uncertainties over student numbers are threatening the future of the course designed to transform teaching into a masters-level profession.
Those responsible for running the masters degree in teaching and learning have raised concerns at the lack of preparation before the programme is launched in September. Funding for the universities offering the degree has not yet been agreed, and there are fears that the start of the qualification could spell the end for other education masters degree courses.
The qualification will be available only to newly qualified teachers in National Challenge schools, initially in the North West and then at challenge schools elsewhere from January. But some of those underperforming schools have been advised against employing NQTs. This contradiction has led to concerns that places on the courses will not be filled.
Any increase in the time new teachers spend outside he classroom would make them more expensive to employ, too, and experts have suggested the introduction of the degree programme might lead to schools preferring to recruit more experienced members of staff.
Lecturers who will run the masters course say much more work needs to be done to educate schools about it before it starts so that teachers, who are already working hard to improve their work, do not see it as an additional burden.
So far, consortiums of universities in the North West, North East, South West and East Midlands have been awarded contracts to run the degree programme. Those in other areas have been asked to re-submit their bids.
The universities had to submit tenders in January before seeing the framework for the degree, which was published earlier this month.
Janet Ainley, running the course at Leicester University, said: "There are a number of aspects of the planning process which haven't been thought out and, without a funding model, it is extremely difficult to get on with the validation process. We run our own masters programmes too, and get subsidies from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), but it's not clear if they have taken a decision on whether that will continue, which again makes it hard to plan.
"Schools don't know how many NQTs they will have this September. In our area, because of advice from the local authority, many schools are not looking to appoint them, so there could be very few available to do this course."
Professor Roger Woods, chair of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said many universities were finding it hard to set up partnerships with schools because of the lack of a simple list of National Challenge schools.
A TDA spokesman defended the degree programme, saying it would provide "effective, structured professional development in the early stages of a teacher's career".
Plan falling apart, pages 26-27
Masters of the universe, page 35.