SHEFC pulls plug on TV pilot

May 10, 1996

Moves by Scottish higher education institutions to set up their own television channel have foundered because the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council says the scheme is not value for money.

The Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals had drawn up proposals with Scottish Television and Scottish Telecom for the Beacon project, which aimed to transmit specially produced programmes to staff and students across the country. A 15-month pilot project had estimated costs of Pounds 500,000, and SHEFC seemed set to invest significant pump priming.

But a SHEFC spokeswoman said this week that while there was nothing wrong with the idea in principle, the council did not feel the final proposals offered value for money.

But she stressed there was nothing to prevent institutions submitting reworked proposals to a new advisory group which will help exploit the full potential of the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), academic information superhighways linking every institution in each of four regions.

Alistair MacFarlane, principal of Heriot-Watt University and convener of the advisory group, said it would both monitor how the MANs were being used, and disburse funds for projects on the network. SHEFC will now provide Pounds 600,000 annually over the next three years to extend and promote the use of the MANs, effectively handing over the funds earmarked for Beacon to the advisory group.

Ronald Crawford, secretary of COSHEP, said: "We were very disappointed at the knock-back. But we are encouraged by the new initiative under Professor MacFarlane and are confident that at least some of the Beacon pilot projects will be successful."

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