Learndirect service reels as colleges refuse to sign contracts

October 13, 2000

The University for Industry has taken emergency action to rescue its learndirect service, after colleges refused to sign contracts, writes Tony Tysome.

It has moved swiftly to defuse the boycott over learndirect contracts, which college chiefs feared would leave their colleges responsible for problems with the service.

Principals of colleges, which are key partners in learndirect "hubs" because they are the conduit for UfI earmarked funds from the Further Education Funding Council, have been expressing reservations about learning materials, technical support and contracts. The service's official promotional launch was scheduled for this week.

But the UfI put back the launch after the Association of Colleges wrote to its members advising them not to sign contracts until the concerns were cleared up.

The letter, from AoC chief executive David Gibson, followed an AoC survey that found many college heads were still unhappy with the situation. The move was a serious setback for the UfI, which has been working closely with the AoC and ministers in an effort to iron out the problems.

Days later, however, the AoC and the UfI issued a joint letter to principals advising them that contractual issues had been resolved and that it was safe to sign.

Mr Gibson said this week: "Most of the areas we had concerns about, such as the status of the contractual agreement, have now been addressed. But we are still working on some other issues, like the price lists for courses."

Anne Wright, UfI chief executive, said the status of contracts was not affecting the ability of learndirect hubs, through their college partners, to take advantage of FEFC funding.

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