Hefce studies UKeU failure

August 19, 2005

Little could have been done to prevent the collapse of the UK's flagship e-university project, according to funding chiefs who believe they will be expected to fund similarly risky ventures in the future.

In an internal report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, The e-University Project: Lessons Learnt by Hefce , the council admits that early warning "checkpoints" could have helped in monitoring the project's progress in its infancy.

But it adds: "Even so, we do not believe that we would have acted any differently at any points identified and, given the issues of due process, we could not have terminated the grant. The evolving nature of public policy... seems to make it likely that we will be expected to do new things involv-ing high risk again."

Liz Beaty, director of learning and teaching at Hefce, defended what she called the council's "hands-off" approach to the running of the university. "We were funders, not directors. If you tie everything down and take no risks, it might stop you coming up with innovative things."

The UKeU was launched in 2000 with £35 million of public money to market and deliver UK university degrees via the internet. The plug was pulled four years later after it recruited only 900 students.

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