Scot firm thriving despite losses

February 8, 2002

Scottish Knowledge lost £1 million last year - but its chief executive, Steve Beere, said the losses were "very much" within budget.

The distance-learning company, which began operation in August 1997, has the backing of all 14 Scottish universities and colleges and more than 20 corporate shareholders. News International, which publishes The THES , signed a £3.54 million deal with Scottish Knowledge two years ago.

Mr Beere said: "We wrote off £750,000 in new courses last year and there was a £250,000 operating loss. It's pretty much in line with expectations within the business that we are in. It is how our business plan is structured.

"We have to work hand-in-hand and within the capacity of the universities to develop the courses. The plan was to invest as much as possible in new courses.

"We have plenty of money in the bank, we have got £3 million, plenty of cash. In the first six months of this year, we exceeded the whole of last year's revenue."

The company last year signed a deal to set up a global e-university for the energy giant Shell, delivering education and training programmes to 10,000 of Shell's 96,000-strong workforce worldwide. It also struck a £12 million deal with the United Arab Emirates to project-manage the design and construction of a Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, that will link the country's 11 colleges and five universities to Scotland.

Some 4,500 students took Scottish Knowledge courses last year, 500 of whom are on long-term, three-year programmes.

Scottish Knowledge had been touted as a possible partner in the e-university, established by the government through the Higher Education Funding Council for England. But it is now understood that the partnership plan is unlikely to come to fruition.

The e-university is due to announce its first chief executive later this month.

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