MPs try to identify the UFI project

31st July 1998 at 01:00
LEARNING centres with phonebox-style "outstations" will be installed in pubs, supermarkets and railway stations throughout Britain to make the University for Industry ideal a reality, MPs were told this week.

The Government is injecting Pounds 50 million into the project as part of its commitment to lifelong learning. The scheme is due to start up in 2002 but the UFI currently has an image problem.

MPs heard that market research is being commissioned to discover how the public reacts to the name UFI.

Dr Ian Johnston, UFI chief executive, was quizzed by members of the education and employment Select Committee, who wanted to know why there is so much puzzlement over its role.

Dr Johnston said the UFI would provide "radically-wide access" to learning by broadcasting and the Internet. It would promote lifelong learning, and broker opportunities. Information, advice and guidance about learning opportunities, prices, grants and loans would be available via the operator-serviced call centres, Learning Direct.

He added: "We will be there to prompt people who have completed a course to start again, to carry on with the learning cycle."

MPs were told that the learning centres would target "seriously disadvantaged" people. Technology would make it easier to plug gaps in the market and reach out to "people they had not met before".

Dr Johnston said that people in rural areas would be able to benefit fully from UFI. He said: "If they have access to a telephone they can phone Learning Direct."

He did not rule out the UFI providing taster courses for people who would then prefer to go to an FE college or private training provider. For those who preferred face-to-face contact, he said a lot of the education would be provided at work "where we can hold people's hands".

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