Comment on Institute for Learning (IfL)

Date: 01.10.11
Articles and information

Institute for Learning (IfL)

Comment on Institute for Learning (IfL) and General Teaching Council (GTC) - have your say on the Voice Blog


IfL update: October 2011  

On 1 April 2011, the Institute for Learning (IfL) became self-financing.  Prior to that, further education lecturers had their £30 annual subscription paid for by the Government.  Now, they are responsible for paying their own subscription. 

IfL initially proposed increasing the subscription fee to £68 but, after discussions with union and Association of Colleges (AoC) representatives facilitated by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), an agreement was reached on 7 June 2011 to set the subscription fee at £38 per year until 2013 (when it will increase to not higher than £68).

Following this, IfL wrote to all members requiring them to renew their membership by 22 July 2011.  Up to two-thirds of members did not comply with this directive.  On 25 July 2011, the UCU union announced the results of a ballot of members, showing that 90% of those who voted, voted to boycott IfLIfL then announced that members who allowed their subscription to lapse would be putting their jobs at risk because, since 31 March 2008, all FE lecturers have been required by law to be registered with IfL.  However, the onus is on the employer – not IfL, Ofsted or any other body – to enforce this. 

Until recently, UCU was still advising its members not to renew their subscriptions and stated that it would take legal action under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights if IfL attempted any unilateral action to lapse members. 

Other unions, having reluctantly accepted that the agreed deal was unlikely to be improved, and in recognition of the fact that only UCU remained in dispute, had started to advise their members to renew their subscriptions, as to do otherwise would risk inciting members to break the law.

John Hayes, the Minister for Further Education and Skills, has now announced that there will be a review of IfL’s effectiveness as part of a wider review of the professional development of FE lecturers.  This review is expected to be completed by the end of the year. 

In the meantime, both UCU and IfL have agreed to refrain from taking any legal action over the fees dispute.  The minister has also asked colleges to refrain from taking any disciplinary action against any of its staff who have not yet renewed their subscriptions.

It now appears that members who continue to postpone payment pending a final resolution of the dispute will not be penalised

We will keep our FE members informed.

England’s registration debacle – lecturers do, teachers don’t 

By Ian Toone, Senior Professional Officer (Education)

8 April 2011

Further education members will be aware that the government subsidy of £30 per year, which previously paid for annual subscription fees to the Institute for Learning (IfL), has now been revoked and IfL is now requiring its members to pay a subscription fee of £68 per year from 1 April.  Understandably, Voice members are very concerned about this and have been contacting us for advice. 

This has created the ridiculous and nonsensical situation where one part of the teaching profession (FE lecturers) is being forced to remain in membership of a professional body (IfL) while another part of the profession (school teachers) is having its professional body (the General Teaching Council for England) taken away (from the end of March 2012).  Teaching staff in sixth form colleges can choose whether or not to belong to a professional body, as they are free to join either IfL or GTC.  

Another anomaly is that this applies only to England.  There is no equivalent of IfL in Wales or Scotland, and the General Teaching Councils in those countries will continue to operate as normal.  This defies logic and is yet another government policy anomaly. 

Voice has registered its concerns with Skills Minister John Hayes, but initial responses have indicated that the Government is reluctant to intervene and, in any case, is bound by legislation brought in by the previous administration and cannot prevent IfL from setting its own fees. 

Colleges covered by the 2007 further education regulations, and learning providers with Skills Funding Agency contracts, are legally bound to employ only IfL members in full or associate teaching and training roles.  This means that members who refuse to register with IfL cannot, legally, remain in employment with these providers. 

Nevertheless, Voice will continue to support members who wish to postpone paying their registration fees until the legal, political and practical issues associated with this debacle have been satisfactorily resolved.

Even IfL has stated that it does not expect all members to have paid their subscriptions by 1 April and will initially seek to ensure compliance by sending out reminders.  Transitional funding has been secured from the Government and part of this will be used to extend the 2011/12 registration from 12 to 18 months, so that the first six months of members’ subscriptions are, effectively, being paid for by the Government.  This means that members will not have to pay the second £68 subscription until 1 October 2012. 

Some employers have agreed to pay (or subsidise) staff subscriptions, although FE colleges are under no obligation to do this.  The Workers’ Educational Association (which receives government funding for some of its adult education programmes) has said that it will not be checking if its tutors remain registered with IfL.  If other providers, including FE colleges, choose to follow suit, it is difficult to see what legal action could possibly be taken against those who refuse to register.  The Skills Funding Agency, which is the main agency responsible for granting government funding for adult learning, has no powers to ensure that staff are registered with IfL, and neither is Ofsted required to monitor compliance with this regulation.  

In the light of this, Voice urges all employers to desist from taking action against any members who choose to postpone registration pending resolution of this issue with the relevant parties, including the Government, IfL, the unions and sector employers. 

(Article for April 2011 issue of Your Voice, the members’ journal.

Further information:

Ministerial letter from BIS to Voice (6 April 2011) (pdf)


Senior Professional Officer Ian Toone

Tel: 01332 372337