Six French "digital campuses" will open in October, pioneers in a government-sponsored attempt to provide online courses.
Each is a consortium between institutions specialising in law, business or engineering, together with the National Distance Learning Centre. Some include foreign partners. They are among 11 priority projects selected last year under a plan initiated by former education and research minister Claude Allègre.
Students will enrol with the universities and pay fees as usual. But, except for occasionally meeting teachers and taking exams, all their studies will be via the internet. The ministry of education estimates more than half of those who sign up will be traditional students, but there will also be employees taking diplomas to upgrade their professional training and teachers updating their knowledge and skills.
The six campuses starting in October are: Mec@web, technology courses leading to engineering diplomas; Insecte, multidisciplinary doctoral and postdoctorate units for teachers; Canege, first-year post- baccalauréat studies in economics and management; Codes, law, ethics and society; La common law de la vente dans une perspective internationale , international and business law; and Eden3, postgraduate technology degrees.
The 11 projects have been allocated government funding totalling €2.1 million (£1.3 million). Those starting in 2002 or 2003 will offer degrees in medicine, science and economics and management. A second stage will widen the field to include the human and social sciences and will bring the total number of digital campuses to 66.