UfI's first learning centres join the circus

November 5, 1999

The first of the University for Industry's planned network of 1,000 "learning centres" will be part of a travelling circus, it has emerged.

But the confirmation of other fast-track pilot UfI centres, which were supposed to begin operating last month, have hit delays amid last-minute wranglings over the name of the flagship lifelong-learning project.

The UfI has confirmed that while its registered company name will remain, the local learning centres will be branded with a different title, following market research that found that its target customers were unhappy with both the words "university" and "industry". The use of the title "university" would also sit badly with ministers' clampdown on the use of the title among higher education colleges.

But it is understood that some are reluctant to ditch the name after chancellor Gordon Brown first announced the idea in opposition six years ago.

A spokeswoman for the UfI confirmed that an announcement of the UfI's new brand will be made at the end of this month, and said that the new name - which will be the focus of a multi-million pound marketing campaign - is still not yet set in stone. The centres are expected to be called "Learning Direct".

It has been confirmed that the network of learning centres will be led by Robert Wilkinson's Big Top Learning Gateway - a mobile centre touring with a funfair around the West Midlands. Other centres are expected to be set up in pubs, clubs, libraries and community centres, and are due to begin work in 2000. The centres will be run by 100 "learning hubs", made up of consortia of colleges, universities and training providers.

Last week the Further Education Funding Council announced it had allocated Pounds 24 million to fund adults returning to learning through the UfI.

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