A new task force to ensure our universities become the first choice across the world for on-line distance learning was announced yesterday by Higher Education Minister, David Lammy.
The task force chaired by Lynne Brindley, the Chief Executive of the British Library will advise on a wider strategy to build on our past and present successes and ensure we do not lose pace on increased demand in expanding and new markets.
It will be backed by a new Open Learning Innovation Fund aimed at helping universities build on their existing world class reputations to access and engage future markets that are expected to value around £15bn in the future.
This is a competitive match funding initiative, with up to £10m from HEFCE and therefore worth up to £20m in total, aims to encourage universities to work collaboratively with each other and the private and third sectors, to bid for money to develop projects to help transform the way people can get a degree.
David Lammy said;
“Advances such as 3G, webcasts and web 2.0, will allow UK universities to reach out to communities as far flung as Africa and Hong Kong and to deliver high quality, student-centred higher education across the globe.
“The use of mobile technologies such as PDAs and MP3 players means this can be done at a time and place that is convenient for the student wherever they are in the world.
“This Open Learning Innovation Fund will help institutions develop new initiatives and exploit new opportunities to ensure we remain at the forefront of online distance learning as the international market develops.
“I am particularly pleased that Lynne Brindley, Steve Beswick from Microsoft and Martin Bean have agreed to be part of the task force that will guide the way as this important work is taken forward.”
Dame Lynne Brindley, CEO British Library said:
“I am delighted to have been asked to chair the Task Force, and to consider the many opportunities for UK higher education to excel in online learning and meet the changing demands of students. The British Library is itself committed to innovative, high quality digital services, including public and commercial partnerships, and I look forward to making recommendations for action to stimulate growth in this important area.”
The Taskforce will include senior representatives from Microsoft [and Apple], who will join Martin Bean, the next Vice Chancellor of the Open University, the British Council, HEFCE, JISC and Universities UK. The BBC has agreed to advise the task force as and when appropriate.
The Online Learning Innovation Fund, established by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), could help groups of institutions to pursue new business opportunities and promote online learning including using open resources funded as part of the e-learning programme. Universities will also be able to develop greater expertise in on-line teaching and create centres of excellence for the delivery of online learning.
The wider strategy will broadly;
> Develop new plans for international marketing of on-line distance UK HE;
> Continue to promote the development of e-learning across the breadth of HE;
> Work to increase the quantity of learning resources freely available for all institutions to use; and
> Continue to develop the role of the Open University (OU) as a national resource, so that all universities can benefit from the OU’s specialist expertise, developed through public funding.
HEFCE will develop the Open Learning Innovation Fund in the light of the task force’s advice and then consult the sector on the practical details.
Britain is a world leader in distance learning currently attracting more than 100,000 students from around the globe and earning the sector some £200m in fees.