Students object to online proposal

March 16, 2001

Australian university students are protesting at the decision by three Universitas 21 members to back plans for a global online university.

The universities of Melbourne, New South Wales and Queensland are among the 18 members of the international U21 network and they have agreed to participate in the online venture.

Melbourne has proposed allocating almost A$10 million (£3.5 million) of the A$50 million believed to be needed to get the project off the ground.

Student critics have condemned the scheme, claiming the universities are interested in profits rather than providing resources and a "quality education for current and future students".

Emmaline Bexley, president of Melbourne's postgraduate student association, said: "Quality controls for this e-university are totally inadequate. The quality assurance arm of this new university will have only three voting members -compared with the 225 members of Melbourne's academic board. How three people will protect the names and reputations of the 18 U21 institutions and ensure the quality of courses run by U21Global is beyond me."

Online courses will be taught initially in English but this should be extended to include Mandarin from 2003 and Spanish from 2006.

The network believes the online university will generate revenue of about A$1 billion by the tenth year. The money will be split among participating institutions.

It is negotiating an agreement to contract online course design, content development and assessment to Thomson Learning.

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