The Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL)

The Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL)

The Fund for the Developmentof Teaching and Learning (FDTL)

The Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL) was established in 1995 to support projects aimed at stimulating developments in teaching and learning in higher education and to encourage the dissemination of good teaching and learning practice across the higher education sector. FDTL is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).

Bids for FDTL fundingwere invited from higher education institutions that demonstrated high quality in their educational provision, as judged by the Teaching Quality Assessment Exercise/ QAA Subject Review. The programme has gone through five rounds and, since 1995, the Fund has supported 164 projects throughout HEFCE-funded institutions.

I first became involved with FDTL in the late 1990s to support a project entitled ‘Support for Part-Time Teachers of Sociology’ based at the Open University as the HEFCE[S1]adviser for this project. (See ) There are a number of things that struck me about FDTL at this time. Firstly, there was the sheer endeavour of academic colleagues who were committed to enhancing student learning in some way. Secondly, there was an accompanying awareness and discourse about pedagogic theory and practice that was awesome. Of course, there was variability in the quality of these projects but the overall effect was to create a space where it became possible to talk about innovation and development in learning and teaching.

A third lasting memory I have of FDTL was the superb co-ordination of the scheme by the National Co-ordination Scheme based at the OU and led by Carole Baume. The Project Manager’s Handbook, for example, became an organic repository for developing project management skills amongst academic communities and can still be found at The briefing on dissemination, for example, with its separation of dissemination for awareness, dissemination for understanding and dissemination for action (with the later addition of ‘dissemination for implementation’), became a mantra for everyone preparing their submissions for the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning bids. Of course, things have moved on and we now know that we need to add something on embedding to follow dissemination for action. The fact remains, the FDTL presence in the sector has led to an enormous improvement in the ways in which we prepare bids and manage projects in teaching and learning. A very high proportion of successful CETL bids came out of successful FDTL projects and teams.

We are currently in the final, fifth phase of FDTL. FDTL5 projects have been running for two years with one more year left to run (plus the possibility of getting transferability funding to develop further the outcomes of projects). The subjects for this final round comprise



•Business and management studies


•Hospitality, Tourism, Leisure and Sports Sciences


•Library and Information Sciences

The projects related to Education are

  • Northumbria, MEDAL Making a Difference: Educational Development to Enhance Academic Literacy;
  • Sheffield Hallam, ACAL Active Learning - Active Citizenship;
  • Surrey, Learning to Learn Through Supported Enquiry;
  • Newcastle, Developing Formative Assessment using ICT in Education;
  • Nottingham, V-ResORT - A Virtual Resource for Online Research Training
  • University of Central Lancaster (UCLAN) - QED British Sign Language: quality embedding of the discipline.
  • Huddersfield - PCET Online Teaching and Support for subject specialist pedagogy in HE training provision for in-service teachers and trainers from Post Compulsory Education and Training.

It goes without saying that there are discipline overlaps in both content and pedagogic theory. ALAC at SheffieldHallamUniversity, for example, has a strong curriculum element based on citizenship; something it has in common with politics projects at Warwick and Southampton as well as the CETL at Roehampton. Similarly, an approach that Nottingham has taken in its development of postgraduate research skills is to use carefully constructed and produced video vignettes; something that colleagues in economics are doing at NottinghamTrentUniversity.

Although a lot of FDTL work has entailed what Bob Mathew at GlasgowUniversity has termed ‘stuff development’ there is no doubt that FDTL has, and is, contributing to pedagogic development across the sector. The economics project at Staffordshire, for example, is developing further the ideas introduced by Jan Meyer, Ray Land, Glynis Cousin and others around threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge within the context of economics (see Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding, 2006, Meyer and Land, Routledge).

One of the ways in which the later projects have developed further the original aims of FDTL is through the support of Subject Centres. Not only have subject centres been invaluable in preparing bids in the first place but they also provide a service to project advisory boards and steering groups as well as having a crucial role in facilitating project dissemination through networks and events.

The question remains, should there be more FDTL rounds? FDTL has not been without its critics. For example, departments and faculties that did not get an ‘excellent’ subject review score or who were unsuccessful in their FDTL bids might perceive FDTL as a way of giving more to ‘him who hath’. The sustainability of project deliverables has also been questioned from time to time. The impact of FDTL is something that the Higher Education Academy is currently researching and we would hope to give an informed answer to the question about what difference FDTL has made during the FDTL conference in February next year. The Higher Education Academy is now responsible for co-ordinating the FDTL programme and details of all the FDTL projects can be found at one of the privileges of working as a senior adviser at the Academy, York is being able to visit FDTL projects and watch the creation of learning and teaching ideas and practices and the subsequent impact on student learning.

Steve Outram

Senior Adviser, Higher EducationAcademy

[S1]1Not NCT?