UFI initiative runs into name trouble

April 25, 1997

New Labour's pre-election re-launch of the University for Industry training initiative was heading for a hiccup this week - over its name. Labour leader Tony Blair and the shadow chancellor Gordon Brown, who first proposed the UFI, this week pointed to it as being a key weapon for increasing prosperity under a Labour government. But as the details emerge, even its backers concede one thing - the University for Industry is not a university.

The UFI is expected to act as a "broker" of information and courses from existing providers. "It will not be another teaching institution," the Institute of Public Policy Research, said. "It will be the hub of a national distance learning network" accessible via computers from the home, workplace or library. The IPPR explained that cash will come from the education providers and franchisees who would charge users, and from the Labour party's new Individual Learning Accounts.

Josh Hillman, research fellow at the IPPR, whose report, Creating a Learning Network, put the flesh on the bones of Labour's idea, admitted that the concepts behind the initiative could become bogged down in the debate over its name. "My view is that the word university is a little dubious."

Sir John Daniel, vice chancellor of the Open University, agreed: "It's a bit like the Holy Roman Empire - it's neither holy, nor Roman nor an empire. The UFI is not a university and it is not really for industry."

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