British Aerospace has committed itself to a Pounds 2 billion investment programme over the next decade to fund a "radically new approach" to education, technology, training and research.
At the heart of BAe's initiative is its virtual university. Geraldine Kenney-Wallace, the university's managing director and vice-chancellor, said the prospectus, published yesterday, would enable all employees to see for the first time the scale of the company's involvement with universities and colleges.
Martin Harris, chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, said of the initiative: "One of the keys to the diversity and excellence of provision in UK universities is the increasing range of strategic partnerships between universities and industry. This new project from British Aerospace represents a new era for such relationships and the CVCP welcomes its appearance."
Dr Kenney-Wallace stressed that the first BAe prospectus reflected activities and programmes that have been ongoing for some time. "I see this as evolving, it is only a first step," she said.
The document lists the "founding consortium" of about 85 colleges and universities that have been working with BAe. Institutions include the universities of Glasgow, Luton, Cambridge and Coventry and colleges of Macclesfield, Stockport and Plymouth.
The BAe university has three faculties: the faculty of learning, the international business school and the faculty of engineering and manufacturing technology. There is also a "best practice centre" for the sharing of expertise across BAe and its partners; and the Sowerby Research Centre near Bristol, BAe's in-house research and development centre.