MPs to attack UKeU bonuses

February 25, 2005

MPs are to savage the bonus payments paid to key figures behind the UK's ill-fated e-university in a report next week.

The Times Higher has learnt that the Education and Skills Select Committee report will find fault with the planning and structure of the UKeU, which folded last year after recruiting 900 students worldwide - at a cost of about £32,000 each.

But it is understood that MPs on the committee will reserve their most intense criticism for bonuses paid to senior staff - in one case more than Pounds 40,000.

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the committee, described the bonuses as "scandalous" when he first heard details of the amounts involved during an evidence session last year. At that session, MPs were told that 31 of the UKeU's 75 employees were eligible for bonus payments.

The MPs' report is expected to be published on Thursday, drawing to an end a saga that began five years ago with the high hopes of David Blunkett, then Education Secretary, that the e-university would be the 21st-century equivalent to the Open University.

The e-university was launched in 2003 as a joint project between the Government, 12 universities and the private sector. It was given £62 million of public funding to deliver undergraduate and postgraduate courses. It aimed to raise enough through student fees to match this funding.

But the Higher Education Funding Council for England pulled the plug on the project in February last year amid concerns about the cost and the UKeU's failure to recruit as many students as expected.

Senior e-university staff told MPs last July that the venture had "not been given time to succeed".

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