Virtual BAe to get strong links

June 13, 1997

GERALDINE Kenney-Wallace, vice chancellor of British Aerospace's planned "virtual university", this week promised strong teaching and research partnerships with other British universities.

Dr Kenney-Wallace said the nature of links will depend heavily on the outcome of a study she is carrying out on the scale of the company's existing collaborations with more than 80 institutions.

"We cannot say at present which universities the virtual university will work with heavily. But once we have made those decisions, it will be clear to all why we have made them. The partnerships will reflect BAe's long-term strategic interests in business, education of its workforce and maintaining manufacturing strength."

The university, which should be fully operational by the end of 1998, will promote continuous learning for BAe's 44,000 employees, supported by accredited courses leading to qualifications from NVQs to PhDs. The acquisition of research and technology to maintain the company's aerospace and defence expertise will also be a major objective.

Dr Kenney-Wallace's immediate priority is the appointment of deans for the university's three faculties: engineering and manufacturing technology, the faculty of learning and the business school.

The jobs will go to BAe employees. "It has to be stressed that this is a university embedded in industry," she said.

Nevertheless, she would like strong "people-flow" between the virtual university and its conventional counterparts, and is considering graduate exchange programmes and professors on secondments to encourage this.

"No university can do everything on its own. If you try you go broke. Each university has its own 'universe' and once BAe has mapped its own universe, we will be in a better position to see where the gaps are, where links need to be strengthened and new ones developed."

BAe will collaborate with other institutions to develop new courses and to extend existing ones to meet the needs of BAe employees.

Dr Kenney-Wallace is keen to involve experts from the City in the business faculty and to hold symposia and seminars at partner institutions. She says there will also be collaboration with institutions worldwide, reflecting the global nature of BAe's business interests.

In addition to mapping the scale of BAe links with universities and appointment of the senior team, Dr Kenney-Wallace is also gathering detailed information on the physical and electronic infrastructure BAe already has for supporting the virtual university.

"What I would like is a positive overlap integral between zero and infinity, but I only have a few months to do it," she says laughing, and adds: "That'll kill your readership dead."

* The Department for Education and Employment was asked this week about the use of the word "university" by BAe.

A spokeswomen said: "The use of the title in general is one of the issues the Dearing inquiry into higher education is looking into. Its use by BAe does not meet existing criteria, but we are waiting for Dearing to report on the matter."

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