The number of college lecturers registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland has dropped by 20 per cent in two years, TESS can reveal.
The fall comes despite an effort to bring a greater number of lecturers under the wing of the professional body.
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that the number of lecturers on the teaching register dropped from 657 to 521 between 2013 and 2015.
Unionists have suggested that the drop could be down to cuts to college lecturing staff, as well as diminishing support for lecturers to gain the qualifications necessary to sign up.
Last year, TESS reported that the GTCS was launching a pilot project to get more lecturers to engage with Professional Update, the scheme it set up last year to support teachers’ CPD.
At the time, the organisation said that over 90 per cent of lecturers were eligible for registration, although only about 11 per cent were actually on the register.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the figures were “disappointing”, adding that his union believed that all FE lecturers should hold a recognised FE teaching qualification and be registered with the GTCS.
He said that having a professional body was the best way to maintain and improve the quality of educational provision in further education.
“FE lecturers, like their school colleagues, deserve a voice and advocate for the profession and the GTCS is well placed to be that voice,” he said.
He added: “It is disappointing to note the decline in the number of FE lecturers who are registered with the GTCS.
“This may be a result of a drop in the number of colleges supporting lecturers obtaining teaching qualifications that are a prerequisite for GTCS registration, together with the loss of a number of experienced lecturing staff…as an effect of the cuts across the college sector.”
The GTCS has said that it will continue to encourage all lecturers to register.
A spokesman said: “Our priority has been to enrol lecturers on a voluntary basis to our Professional Update pilots over the next two years. Phase 2 of Professional Update will see lecturers from at least three colleges participate.”
The spokesman added that the responses from participating lecturers would help the GTCS give lecturers the support they needed.
He said that some colleges were already planning to pay their lecturers’ first year of fees in order to boost registrations.
The GTCS said that there were several reasons for the reduction in the number of registrations, including staffing changes within the sector and some lecturers being registered first as teachers.
Shona Struthers, chief executive at Colleges Scotland, said that the professionalism of all staff working in Scotland’s colleges was “a matter that we take very seriously”.
A spokesman for the National Union of Students Scotland said the fact that registrations at GTCS were declining was “concerning”.
“We’d like to see more staff being supported and encouraged to take on teaching qualifications to help develop their careers, in order to reflect the important and high-quality work that college lecturers do,” he said.
“We’d be concerned if the fall in the number of staff achieving qualifications was as a result of further financial or time pressures on staff and colleges.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: “We are aware of and support the range of work that the General Teaching Council for Scotland is doing with the sector to enhance learning and teaching, which includes the Professional Update and the registration of lecturers.”