Eye witness

June 25, 1999

In an increasingly global market, students are often bewildered by similarities between the names of the universities competing to recruit them.

Australian students can be excused for confusing the British-based University of Greenwich with a controversial American institution, Greenwich University, which offers degree courses over the internet from a new base on Norfolk Island.

Greenwich University was founded in St Louis, Missouri, in 1972. In 1990, new administrative headquarters were opened in Hawaii as a central point for the Pacific area, and the same year a representative office of the university was established in Melbourne, Australia. It opened a base in Norfolk Island last year and was formally registered as a university under an act of parliament by the island government. Norfolk Island is a federal territory of Australia.

But the American Greenwich has come under attack from Australian academics and politicians who claim it has not been subject to the academic assessments required of a new university. Critics have called on the federal government to repeal the Norfolk Island act establishing Greenwich as a university.

The federal government responded to the concerns by setting up a committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding Greenwich's arrival on Norfolk Island and whether it has the academic credentials to offer university courses.

David Fussey, vice-chancellor of the UK's University of Greenwich, said newspaper articles about the Norfolk Island institution had been read with concern in Britain. In a letter to The Australian, Professor Fussey said his university was in no way associated with the other institution.

The University of Greenwich has an agreement with the Victoria University of Technology to offer MSc degrees by distance. Vaughan Beck, a VUT pro vice-chancellor responsible for research and development, said differentiating between the two institutions was an important issue for VUT as it had begun an advertising campaign promoting the new courses.

"We are emphasising the distinction between the two institutions in course information to students," Professor Beck said.

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