UNIVERSITIES are dodging the Government's regulation and inspection of teacher-training courses by dropping undergraduate courses in favour of "education studies" degrees.
Students can then progress to one-year postgraduate teacher training, creating a "three-plus-one" model.
Students benefit because they can claim the pound;6,000 training bursaries which undergraduate trainees on BEd courses are not entitled to.
And, freed from the constraints of the vocational teacher-training curriculum, they develop a more critical approach to the Government's education policies, according to Stephen Ward, head of education and childhood studies at Bath Spa university.
He told the Society for Education Studies' recent conference in York that the university changed to three-plus-one in 1999, in response to "increased government control of the initial teacher-training curriculum and excessive inspection of courses".
The change meant courses were funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England rather than the Teacher Training Agency, and were not inspected by the Office for Standards in Education. The TTA has in the past made drastic cuts in funding on courses failed by the inspectors, but is to consult on changes to its procedures.
Course provision at other universities varies widely, although official figures show the numbers on education studies courses overall are rising faster than on traditional undergraduate BEd courses.
The number has increased by 16.7 per cent on last year, from 2,375 to 2,771. The BEd total is 6,959, but this is up only 0.6 per cent after falling previously.
Ralph Tabberer, the TTA's chief executive, said it supported providers switching between routes, whatever their motivation.
"I would have understood why people wanted to avoid our funding regime three years ago.
"There is less of a case now because the inspection regime is much lighter and we are going to consultation on a less draconian approach to areas of individual failure."