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Universities may pull out of teacher training

TEACHER-training departments could be shut down by universities because changes in how research is funded will make them less viable.

Plans to concentrate funding in the top-rated institutions would be disastrous for schools, the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers has warned.

And even the Teacher Training Agency believes the lower status and rewards of educational research could lead universities to reconsider whether it is worth staying in teacher training. The Government has reiterated that it will target funding at subject departments and universities with the highest quality ratings for research.

As a result, only 25 English teacher training universities rated "4" or above will get any research funding, with most going to 5 or 5* departments.

Opponents argue education should be a special case because of the practical and applied nature of much research and the Government's commitment to making teaching an evidence-based profession.

Robert Fisher, professor of education at Brunel University, believes there should be another funding category for applied research that meets national needs.

He fears some universities may close teacher-training departments, because they do not score well in the five-yearly research assessment exercise and so miss out on the associated research funding.

"Teacher-training institutions are not being rewarded for what they can contribute to practical, professional improvements in teaching and learning," he said.

Dr Merryn Hutchings, reader in education at London Metropolitan University, believes it would cost the Department for Education and Skills about pound;1 million to fund research in the less highly ranked teacher training departments. She said: "The Government wants an evidence-based profession and for teachers to be researchers. Teachers need to be able to understand quality and evaluate evidence."

A confidential TTA report produced last year warned that the chance to do research was an important way of attracting lecturers into teacher training, at a time when experienced teachers are financially better off staying in schools. Consultations on the future assessment of research in universities close in September.

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