The Open University has recruited banking dynasty Rothschilds to raise Pounds 50 million in the City of London for establishing a satellite television network. The network will beam OU courses into the homes and workplaces of 100 million people across the Indian subcontinent.
The university already boasts 20,000 students outside the United Kingdom. For this latest venture it has teamed up with the BBC and the British Council. A business plan will be presented to Rothschilds at the end of this month. Dubbed the "world learning network", the venture owes its origins to former Hollywood producer David Puttnam, who two years ago called for a "world university network" which could bathe the world in high-class educational British television.
Popularly known as the "Marks and Spencer of British higher education", the OU was the obvious choice as the educational element of the project. It is hoped that the WLN will reach what Sir John Daniel, the OU's vice chancellor, calls "the emerging middle classes". This is because, as he puts it, "they are relatively well-off, and they have a better-than-average command of English".
In the first place, fairly advanced postgraduate courses will be offered, including manufacturing, management, and computers in industry. Undergraduate courses might be added later.
The British Council, which is well-established in India and which teaches English in some 70 centres across the country, is expected to serve as the local delivery agency. It will soon be negotiating with appropriate Indian industrial partners who will provide the tutorial framework for the courses.