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COLLEGES are to be given a specific sum of pound;6 million over the next three years to encourage "ICT pervasiveness", beginning in August.

This approach to information and communications technology was a key concept developed by the Scottish Executive's knowledge economy task force and is enthusiastically backed by Wendy Alexander, Lifelong Learning Minister.

The task force's report said that colleges and universities must "create a culture where accessing and using new technologies is as familiar and comfortable to students, and their teachers and lecturers, as the use of blackboardswhiteboards and books.

"This means that, where practicable, courses should have embedded within them to some extent the practical use of ICT."

The task force envisaged that this would also extend to the management, adinistration and even the social life of the college.

The Scottish Further Education Funding Council has now earmarked pound;2.5 million for the next academic session to kick-start this process and is asking colleges to come up with proposals for becoming "ICT pervasive" by July 2. It is part of a total investment in ICT of pound;15 million for 2001-02, which includes improvement of equipment and upgrading of computer systems.

The council has set targets for improving ICT coverage in colleges, which by next year will be expected to have enough networked computers to achieve a ratio of one for every five full-time students.

Colleges are also being funded to ensure that each permanent member of the teaching staff has a computer eventually and, by next year, access to the Internet and e-mail services.

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