Scotland has taken another tentative step towards setting up its own higher education television channel, a move that will put it at the forefront in Europe.
The Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals has been responding warily to an approach by Scottish Television and ScottishTelecom offering them a "narrowcast" system which would allow programmes to be transmitted to staff and students across the sector.
But at its meeting last month, COSHEP authorised a group of five principals to talk with Scottish Television on the financial and practical implications of both a pilot and permanent scheme.
"I'm confident that we will take a positive decision to proceed to the pilot," said Ronald Crawford, COSHEP's secretary. "The majority are in no doubt that it is a potentially very exciting possibility, but we need to know what we are letting ourselves in for."
Sir Stewart Sutherland, Sir Graeme Davies, Richard Shaw, Christopher Maddox and Alistair Rowan, respectively the principals of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paisley Universities, the Scottish College of Textiles and Edinburgh College of Art, will meet Scottish Television representatives later this month.
A pilot project of between three and six months would cost an estimated Pounds 500,000, and there are fears that this might be sliced from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's allocations. But if COSHEP backs the project, SHEFC is likely to invest significant cash from other funds without the need for top slicing.
The television channel would dovetail with SHEFC's current information technology initiatives of Metropolitan Area Networks, academic superhighways in four Scottish regions, which are to be linked in a Wide Area Network for all 21 higher education institutions.