PROCLAIMED last week as the next big step in widening access to higher education, the University for Industry pilot project in the Northeast was warmly endorsed at its launch by higher education minister Tessa Blackstone, writes Huw Richards.
Baroness Blackstone said that unless the Government succeeded in addressing the fact that only one-third of adults had done any learning in the past three years, and a further third had done none since leaving school, it would have "failed in terms of economic competitiveness, social justice and cohesion".
She said the UFI had a key role to play in this and that she hoped the model would eventually be emulated in other countries.
It was announced that the Department for Education and Employment would carry out the evaluation at the end of the first year of the pilot project.
Mike Thorne, pro vice chancellor of Sunderland University and co-director of the project, said it represented the application of modern business techniques to providing opportunities to study.
Five taster courses, including IT for the terrified, will be offered as part of the pilot provision. Courses will be offered through a variety of media. "To be frank I would always advise people to go for face-to-face tuition where possible, but there are people such as shift workers for whom it simply is not possible," Professor Thorne said.
The UFI phoneline, operating 14 hours a day, seven days a week on 0800 262639, opens on Monday. Internet: www.ufi.org.uk