Global web nets 100 colleges

8th March 1996 at 00:00
Carla James left school without any qualifications but still managed to gain the UK's highest mark at A-level psychology last year, winning a national award and Pounds 100 from the Associated Examining Board.

She salvaged her academic career at Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale, which celebrated her success in its weekly newsletter. The modest publication is intended mainly for staff and students, but it is also on the Internet with a potential readership of 40 million.

The college is one of only 100 with its own site on the World Wide Web - a service on the Internet noted for high-quality graphics, particularly useful for the art and design industry and desktop publishing.

Cyberspace - as the electronic storage area in the computer's labyrinthine network is known - is rapidly filling up with prospectuses, examples of students' work and photographs of beaming principals.

One such is Ray Dowd, Hopwood's principal, who won Pounds 175,000 last year from the Government's Competitiveness Fund to put Rochdale industry and education on the web. More than Pounds 200,000 of college cash and a grant of Pounds 20,000 from Research Machines helped him hit a Pounds 400,000 target. "We are creating a network of small and medium enterprises connected to each other via the Internet," he said.

His staff have the daunting long-term task of helping put the borough's 100 schools on a business-education network. The web provides an electronic prospectus of Hopwood's courses.

Students, particularly in graphic design, have been quick to exploit its potential. Edwin Stemp, 18, one of three students on a project to design Internet pages for Rochdale Heritage Centre, said: "It's the best tool for research. If I wanted a picture of almost anything, I could find it on the Internet."

He is studying how the Internet works as a communication aid and is astonished at the speed with which it is being updated, as anyone who is signed-up to the web can contribute. "It's like a big encyclopaedia," he said.

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