The Scottish Office has announced it is to consult on future arrangements for teacher training in the wake of the Sutherland report commissioned by the Dearing inquiry.
The report, written by Sir Stewart Sutherland, principal of Edinburgh University, calls for more strategic direction in the training of teachers and implies there should be fewer centres. But it also pays tribute to the more consensual approach adopted in Scotland compared with England.
Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, has now written to the Scottish Teacher Education Committee, which represents training institutions, asking for its views.
Dick Johnstone, head of the education department at Stirling University, which trains teachers concurrently with their undergraduate courses, welcomed the proposal for a strategic forum in which all the interests would be represented.
"I am pleased to see the strong support for the involvement of higher education in coherent induction for teachers to build on their initial training," Professor Johnstone said. "The recommendation for improved integration between initial teacher education and teachers' continuous professional development is also welcome."
Sir Stewart was cautious this week about expanding on his report. "I might be seen as an interested party," he said. Edinburgh University has just concluded an agreement to absorb Moray House Institute of Education from August next year.
But he suggested Scotland needed a more coherent way of identifying student numbers to stabilise planning. His report says more should be done to improve the quality of applicants for teacher education and perhaps increase the numbers in the weaker subjects.
Sir Stewart said: "The question is whether larger tranches of students might be better served from fewer locations, which in turn raises a question about where these should be."
Mr Wilson's letter did not comment on Sir Stewart's proposals. He did, however, take the opportunity to reveal that the latest Scottish Office review of the national guidelines on initial teacher education would emphasise the importance of basic literacy and numeracy skills in primary courses.
The Government would aim to implement the revised guidelines from the 1999-2000 session. Ministers would also take account of the General Teaching Council's "partnership" proposals on the respective roles of schools and teacher education institutions in training teachers.