Shadow universities minister Brett Mason has launched a petition to save the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.


"The decision to restore the ALTC would not be a difficult one to make,'' the Mason petition says.


"But the window of opportunity is closing, as the 2011-12 Federal Budget approaches.''


Set up in 2005, the ALTC is a federal agency supposed to lift the quality and prestige of university teaching, which is commonly seen as a neglected field in comparison with research.


On January 27 prime minister Julia Gillard said the end of the ALTC would contribute $88 million over four years to $2.8 billion in savings to offset the cost of flood recovery.


Lobbying and the politics of minority government led to a compromise whereby $50m is to be restored for some programs, such as teaching awards. These are to be picked up by the federal Education Department.


"This is a solution that satisfies no one,'' the Mason petition says.


"The ALTC plays an extremely valuable role in improving the quality of the learning and teaching experience for one million students and academics in Australian universities.


"For the sake of `saving' a few million dollars each year, all this work and all the accumulated expertise and corporate knowledge will be lost.


"Meanwhile, the Department of Education is clearly under-resourced and not experienced enough to perform the ALTC's functions.''