Universitas 21 is setting up a multimillion-dollar joint venture company with Thomson Learning and plans to establish an e-university offering online MBAs within a year.
The e-university would offer taught postgraduate courses - such as an MBA in e-commerce and a diploma in information management - alongside lower-level units that students could accumulate to gain a degree.
Universitas 21 - a British company formed by 18 universities worldwide - has been seeking to establish a totally online venture.
Thomson is an international publisher that from 1967 to 1981, owned Times newspapers. Its Thomson Learning subsidiary runs assessment centres and offers students help in preparing for tests.
Alan Gilbert, U21 chairman and vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, said: "U21 brings brand, quality assurance and accreditation. Thomson Learning brings a unique capacity in assessment and capacity to solve problems in admissions. Thomson Learning is also a major supplier of high-quality content."
If the boards of U21 universities and Thomson Learning approve the business plan, the company will be established in early 2001 and enrol its first group of 1,000 postgraduates later that year.
The joint venture follows the collapse of a deal between U21 and Worldwide Learning, a subsidiary of News Corporation's TSL Education, which publishes The THES .