Funding for the once-flagship policy of making teachers a "masters level" profession has been axed by the Coalition government, prompting concerns from academics about wasted time and money.
The Masters in Teaching and Learning (MTL), introduced under the last government, was designed to improve teacher quality by requiring newly qualified staff to study for the higher qualification.
But central funding for the initiative has been withdrawn for any new recruits. Around 2,000 NQTs started studying for the MTL last year, which takes three years to complete. A second cohort was due to begin next month.
But in a letter to the Training and Development Agency for Schools, Education Secretary Michael Gove said that while he "appreciated the hard work and effort" that had gone into the course, he was pulling funding.
"The quality of teaching and teachers' professional development are of the utmost importance and I am committed to developing a strong culture of professional development where more teachers acquire postgraduate qualifications like masters and doctorates," he wrote.
"However, I also believe teachers should decide for themselves which masters level course is the right one for them, and that a single masters degree prescribed by Whitehall is not the right approach."
Headteachers receive #163;6,806 per MTL student to pay for a school-based coach and supply teachers to cover study leave. In addition, the 48 universities running the MTL get around #163;800 per student. Other education masters courses can cost less than #163;4,000 per student.
The MTL was initially open to NQTs at schools struggling to get high exam results, but was due to be rolled out to all schools.
James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "We are naturally very disappointed about the withdrawal of funding, particularly after so much work has gone into getting the programmes off the ground.
"But we do take some heart from Michael Gove's recognition of the importance of masters qualifications for teachers, which we know have a demonstrable impact on classroom performance."