A fast, technologically advanced Pounds 2.5 million computer network, linking eight universities in six Yorkshire cities, is nearing completion ahead of schedule. The Yorkshire and Humberside Metropolitan Area Network (YHMAN) will link the universities of Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, York, Hull and Huddersfield with Sheffield Hallam and Leeds Metropolitan universities, at speeds of up to 155 million bits per second - about ten times faster than their existing connections.
YHMAN, financed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Joint Information Systems Committee and managed by the University of Leeds, will encourage and support collaboration in learning, teaching and research. The universities, all members of the Yorkshire and Humberside Universities Association (YHUA) which initiated the project, hope that it will give the region a tangible technological lead, enabling them to boost their contribution to regional economic development. Students, teachers and researchers will be able to take part in expanded part-time and distance learning programmes in line with the Dearing Report's recommendations on lifelong learning and regional co-operation.
The network, using ATM and SDH technology, takes the form of a ring, with York and Hull universities on direct spurs from Leeds. YHMAN also provides 155Mbps access to SuperJANET 3 through Leeds. Five universities are connected, with Leeds Metropolitan, York and Hull set to join very soon. The network has been supplied by General Telecom, Cable and Wireless Communications, and Cabletel Kirklees.
One expected use in which there is much interest is the development of "virtual labs", giving students and researchers access to a virtual environment in which to do experiments without fear of failure, to share equipment and learning resources generally (especially multimedia resources), and to enjoy high quality teaching - without taking up any extra physical space.