Three years, 5 million calls, 2,000 learning centres and 834,000 new learners

20th June 2003 at 01:00
1996: Gordon Brown and the centre-left think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research produce the blueprint for the University for Industry.

1997: Pilot scheme starts at University of Sunderland, signing up thousands of students for bite-sized taster courses.

March 1999: Ufi announces its plans for a new learning network across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the first learning centres piloted.

November 1999: The learn-direct brand is launched with a nationwide television advertising campaign.

October 2000: Ufi officially launches its nationwide network of e-learning services, with more than 700 learning centres up and run-ning. More than 36,000 people had tried learndirect courses during development phase.

January 2001: Ufi's new headquarters, Dearing House, opens in Sheffield.

April 2001: Ann Limb, principal and chief executive of Cambridge Regional College, appointed new chief executive of Ufi, after Anne Wright steps down.

August 2001: Agreement signed between Ufi and the National Training Organisation National Council on joint working for workforce development.

February 2002: learndirect launches new national television advertising campaign promoting online learning for all.

March 2002: learndirect announces the 4 millionth call to its helpline.

April 2002: Ufi publishes its 2002-05 strategic plan, which sets a target of 1 million learners enrolling on 2 million courses by 2005.

April 2003: The 2,000th learndirect learning centre opens. During the same month the review of the relationship between the DfES and Ufi is published, announcing the creation of a new commercial arm.

* Since its start, learndirect has attracted nearly 834,000 new learners to 1.8 million enrolments, and engaged 69,497 small businesses.

There are 2,019 learndirect learning centres across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As of April 2003, there were 906 learndirect courses available, 13,885 course learner hours, more than 5 million helpline calls, and more than 10 million website information and advice hits.

* More than 600 organisations work in partnership with Ufi as part of local, employer and sector-based hubs.

* Nearly 300 courses have been written with small and medium-sized enterprises in mind.

* Last year the Ufi's income from the Learning amp; Skills Council was pound;147m. This year it is pound;159m.

In Wales, around pound;1.7m was designated to support learndirect learning in the last financial year. In Northern Ireland up to pound;2.8m was available.

* By 2004-5 Ufi aims for 1.9 million calls a year to the learndirect helplines, and 4 million hits on the learndirect website.

* The targeted number of learners for this academic year is 400,000. Next year, it is aiming for 630,000 and by 2004-5 it wants 1 million.

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