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Resource priorities

Two-thirds of colleges now have learning resource centres where students are free to pursue much more independent learning with the use of computers, the TES survey shows. Many are small or limited in scope but all colleges have indicated such developments as a priority in the medium-term of three to four years. Almost half also have or are planning drop-in centres for the wider community, including business.

Just under two-thirds also have networks linked to other colleges, schools or universities. Around one in six colleges have exploited these to try video conferences and e-mail systems. A similar number are already using a range of new developments such as cable TV, satellite links and wider use of e-mail.

Multimedia, which links TV, computers and telecommunications, is one area where most IT managers see considerable scope for curriculum development. But most are holding back until - as they expect - costs come down.

Yet there is a downside to this picture: the purchasing policies of many colleges is too fragmented. Several co-ordinators responsible for management information systems (MIS) were in despair at their lack of say over wider college policy.

Last February, the London and South East Regional Advisory Council for FE (LASER) surveyed 20 per cent of colleges in membership.

Chief executive Laurie South said this week: "We found individual departments making their own deals on incompatible stuff from corner shops, leading to maintenance problems and other serious headaches for MIS managers."

On the positive side, the TES survey appears to show a sharp increase in attention to staff training. Eighteen months ago the LASER found that in only 20 per cent of colleges were administrative staff offered training. This compares with 42 per cent now offering all staff some training.

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