Alliance ready to take on its rival

March 23, 2001

An international network of universities is preparing a series of special online courses largely geared at the Asian market.

A meeting of the ten members of the Global University Alliance in Melbourne last week agreed to push ahead with developing purpose-built courses in business and information technology.

The alliance was initiated in June last year and formally established as a private company with the ten universities as shareholders last October.

It offers 56 courses with 261 subjects made available through its member institutions. Although the GUA's competitor network, Universitas 21, was the first to announce plans for a global e-university, it is some months away from putting courses online.

Last week's GUA meeting agreed that a Hong Kong-based online education specialist, NextEd, should take over operational management of its project. NextEd previously provided the GUA's global server and integrated technology platform as well as marketing services.

GUA chairman and chancellor of the University of Derby, Sir Christopher Ball, said NextEd would streamline the operations and provide a better service to enrolled and prospective students as well as the 3,000 registered users of the GUA website.

Sir Christopher said the GUA's website was receiving 100,000 hits a week. He said the network was "uniquely positioned" to become the premier global provider of accessible and affordable high-quality education via the internet.

Sir Christopher said: "We are not worried by the prospect of competition with Universitas 21 as we think it will keep us on our toes."

Apart from the University of Derby in Britain, other member universities are located in Holland and North America while the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the University of South Australia and Auckland University of Technology comprise the southern hemisphere membership.

Sir Christopher said students would pay about $4000 (£2,800) for the equivalent of a year's full-time postgraduate study.

He said the alliance believed the new "bespoke" courses, designed and delivered by groups of universities sharing their expertise, would prove extremely attractive to graduates across Asia.

"But we have been astonished by the interest shown from potential students in other parts of the world, including Europe, where we did not expect to attract enrolments," he added.

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