The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) is to begin a charm offensive that could eventually lead to thousands of college lecturers registering with the teaching body.
The GTCS wants to show lecturers the benefits of taking part in initiatives such as the Professional Update "teaching MOT" and of being held accountable by the council's Fitness to Teach disciplinary panels. They also want to highlight the access to research seminars and events that registration offers.
Currently, only about 600 of a total of 5,300 further education lecturers are registered with the GTCS. The body said that more than 90 per cent of lecturers would be eligible for registration.
A group of lecturers at Dundee and Angus and West Lothian colleges will now register and participate in a pilot of Professional Update, which was launched in August to support teachers' CPD.
GTCS chief executive Kenneth Muir said the trial would reassure the public that lecturers "take seriously their professional learning and keeping their skills up to date".
Participants will also have to adhere to the GTCS code of professionalism and conduct, and will be held accountable by the Fitness to Teach panel. Mr Muir said this would further reassure students and their parents.
GTCS education adviser for professional learning Vikki Robertson said that as the education system in Scotland was becoming more integrated, the GTCS had to be "an advocate for all of the teaching profession".
"Therefore, we are working to support everyone who is eligible for registration with GTCS and the FE sector is a central part of this strategy," she added.
Following a successful pilot, it is hoped the scheme will be extended to further college regions.
Participation in the initiative is voluntary, as is registration by lecturers with the GTCS. But the EIS teaching union, which represents college teaching staff in Scotland, signalled its support for compulsory registration, which it said would "ensure parity of esteem, enhance professionalism and maintain high standards in college lecturing".
A spokeswoman for the EIS added: "Ultimately, if the majority of Scotland's lecturers choose to voluntarily register with the GTCS it can be more easily argued for GTCS' statutory remit to be extended, making it also the professional and regulatory body for the further education lecturing profession in Scotland."
Mr Muir said the GTCS was pleased to be working with the two pilot colleges and was reaching out to the wider FE community "to encourage more lecturers to register with GTCS and take advantage of the services we offer".
The pilot will involve about 50 lecturers across the two colleges. Abi Mawhirt, head of organisational development at Dundee and Angus College, told TESS: "Exploring new initiatives and professional learning have always been a priority for the FE sector and its staff. Therefore, running the pilot with our lecturers is a sensible way to broaden horizons in a professional context."
A spokeswoman for Colleges Scotland said the body was "committed to supporting lecturers in the sector and to ensuring that the highest possible professional standards are adhered to by college staff".
South Lanarkshire College principal Stewart McKillop told TESS he and his depute had already registered with the GTCS in order to be "supportive of the professional standards organisation within the sector" .
"But we also think it has to be beneficial to lecturers," he said, "and the GTCS is beginning to take steps to ensure that is the case."
Read Roger Mullin's views on the role of the GTCS