University for cars

June 23, 1995

The UK motor industry is looking to establish a "virtual university" to help it stay level with world competition in the 21st century.

If the virtual university becomes a reality, managers at more than 2,000 car and component manufacturing companies will be linked via video and computer to universities specialising in the motor industry. Interested institutions include Bath, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, UMIST and Warwick.

Ernie Thompson, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which is developing the concept, said: "Many companies simply cannot afford to send their key managers on two-year management courses. This idea for coordinated distance learning should solve this." The initiative was prompted by the findings of an SMMT-run self-assessment benchmarking programme which showed that even once they have identified skill deficiencies, many companies do not know where to go for extra training.

Management skills need to be addressed. Mr Thompson said: "Many companies are more used to crisis management rather than long-term strategic management."

A motor industry university will help overcome what he calls "the inbuilt resistance to change" in many UK companies.

The motor industry is the largest industrial sector in the UK, worth Pounds 11 billion in exports, and has a record of educational development.

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