The coveted US internet domain suffix .edu may be opened up to thousands of non-university education institutions later this year.
Educause, the non-profit academic body that took over the administration of higher education domain names from the Department of Commerce last year, is seeking views online on whether any institution accredited by an agency recognised by the Department of Education should be allowed to use .edu.
Conditions mean some schools are forced to use .com or .org. Educause has already allowed two-year colleges to use .edu, which had previously been reserved for four-year colleges and universities.
Many contributors to the online discussion back the proposal, but others have questioned its merits. Rose McCallin, director of examination services for Colorado's Department of Regulatory Agencies, said the present system based on regional accreditation agencies helped protect students from companies offering training rather than higher education.
However, Wayne Fletcher of Westwood College of Technology, which has ten campuses in four states and has a .edu address, backed the change. If the education department accepts an institution's accreditation, he asked, why should another agency refuse it use of the suffix?
Elaine Giuliano of California's Central Coast College said the change would help break down the misunderstanding that non-degree courses meant they were not accredited. "The .edu myth compounds the issue," she said.
The online discussion will end on August 15. The decision will be made by Educause 's three-strong policy board and then sent to the Commerce Department for approval.
Educause's domain name online discussion is at: www.educause.edu/ edudomain/policy_public_forum.asp