Colleges are woefully ill-prepared for the information technology revolution and need at least another 100,000 computers in the short term, the Further Education Funding Council has warned.
The situation casts doubt on the sector's ability to deliver ministers' plans for mass expansion in further education, and threatens widening access initiatives and the flagship lifelong learning initiative, the University for Industry.
In a consultation document on the future of information technology in the college sector, the FEFC warns that more than a quarter of college computers are out of date by two generations. Almost half of colleges say they cannot cope with students' demands for computer access. Of those said to be coping, 89 per cent report that at peak times students are denied access.
The report, Networking and Lifelong Learning, recommends that the Pounds 74 million made available by the government over the next three years for IT infrastructure should be targeted at developing minimum standards and specifications for local computer networks as a prerequisite to a national learning network.