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Don't forget to bring your laptop

A laptop will be an essential part of freshers' kit at Warwick University by 2003, under plans unveiled this week. It is the first time that a British university has proposed that all students must have computers - a fact of life in some US institutions.

The move is part of an "e-strategy" that includes providing free, high-speed Internet access in every student bedroom and using the Net to slash purchasing costs.

A Warwick University spokesperson said that last year, 70 per cent of first-year students had a computer and 24 per cent were considering buying one. A leasing scheme would cost students a maximum of pound;1,250 over three years, or pound;34 a month.

The National Union of Students claimed the plan represented top-up tuition fees by stealth and would stop poorer students from studying at Warwick. Howver, the university spokesperson said aid would be given to any student who could not afford a laptop.

In a similar move, Strathclyde University has loaned laptops to a group of first-year students in a pilot programme.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have attacked the Government's refusal to give more money to the teachers' computer subsidy scheme, instead, limited to key stage 3 maths staff.

Richard Allan, the party's IT spokesperson, said teachers at all levels should be entitled to subsidised laptops. "They are asked to make use of IT in the classroom. How can they do this without personal access to such equipment?" Michael Wills, the learning and technology minister, has promised that more money will eventually be made available to help teachers.

Online magazine, 4 Letters, 20

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