UfI to 'open for business' despite concern over shortcomings

September 15, 2000

The University for Industry is set to launch its learndirect e-learning network before it is ready, college heads have warned.

UfI chiefs announced this week that the network would be "open for business" from October 9, backed by a full marketing campaign. But further education college principals are worried that many shortcomings have not been fully addressed.

Colleges complain there is no secure system for tracking learndirect students or auditing numbers and funding and that institutions are confused about which students are eligible for UfI funding through the Further Education Funding Council.

Some have also said they are dissatisfied with the quality of learning materials in comparison with others on the market.

The Association of Colleges said that although its members supported the UfI and learndirect, it was uncertain whether the system would attract enough students once it became a fee-paying service.

An AoC spokeswoman said: "It appears the system is still in a development processI It remains to be seen if large numbers of students will be encouraged to buy into the learning once it ceases to be free."

UfI officials have a meeting next week with education minister Michael Wills, who has promised learndirect will not be launched until it is "110 per cent ready".

Officials denied that there were problems with learning materials. They admitted that there was no audit system yet, although this is expected to be issued soon by the FEFC. The tracking of courses for individual learners via learndirect's website was due to come on stream in the next few months.

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